Wouldn’t it be wonderful to choose the career you want because you like it, asks Abeya El-Bakry
For a refreshing change, during the past year, 2,700 secondary students in Barageel, an underprivileged area in Giza, were offered a chance to change their mindset. For a long time now, Egyptians have been complaining about the educational system, its stiff curricula, heavy study load and score-oriented objectives. Yet parents have insisted on putting pressure on their kids to meet the system’s demands to achieve mind-boggling over 100 per cent scores to enter competitive faculties such as medicine, engineering and pharmacology.
A programme was initiated as the result of the collaboration between Ashanek ya Balady (For You My Country) NGO and a leading private sector company.
They trained students through seven 40-minute sessions which included discussions about planning for the future, goal-setting, confronting challenges, creativity and career counselling. The programme also informed students about health issues, nutrition and volunteering. Twenty-three volunteers participated in these sessions. Four schools were involved: Khadeeja Secondary School for Girls, 6 October Secondary School for Girls, Alaa Mubarak Experimental Languages School and Dolce Secondary School for Girls in Barageel.
Ahmed Al-Sherif, the 18-year-old spokesman of Ashanek ya Balady (NGO) and the youngest formal trainer in Egypt, said during the celebration: “Two years ago, when I was in first secondary, I decided I wanted to become a human development trainer, and so I resolved to start my career. At the end of two years, this is what I did.” With a certificate from a university in Montreal, Al-Sherif volunteered with Ashanek ya Balady and set out to help his peers in schools in Giza.
“The programme has given our students a perspective on planning for their future. This initiative demonstrates the possibility of private and public support to serve the community.”
In a short performance by 6 October secondary school students, adolescents dramatised their new mindset. “So you want to tell me that you are willing to enter any faculty, not necessarily top faculties, such as medicine and engineering?” said one of the students onstage incredulously.
Her colleague responded calmly, “there’s no such thing as a top faculty, and a weak one. Every faculty has to fulfil its role in serving the community.”
Students on the stage explained that they were willing to study subjects they never considered before despite the challenges because they felt inclined towards them. One of the girls said, “I never bothered about what I will study before. Which faculty to choose was never an urgent question I needed to answer, but now I wish to study psychology in university.” Her friend added that she wished to study education because she felt it is what she wants to do personally. Their colleague added that he wished to study civil aviation even though he heard that it’s a difficult field, and its entrance examinations are quite difficult. Another girl said she wanted to study art to have her own exhibition someday, while her friend said that she wishes to become a graphic designer to contribute to artistic production in Egypt.
Off stage, the students adopted the same line of thought.
“We learnt how to set goals for ourselves. I gained confidence in my choices. In the secondary stage we are often urged to focus on our studies, our exams, and other activities. I learnt that my hobbies add to my skills and increase my abilities,” explained Reem Hussein, a 17-year-old secondary student at Al-Tahrir Experimental School in 6 October city.
While to her colleague Menna Omar, the experience was quite different.
“I used to think of voluntary activities as a religious path, but I learnt that these activities prove that we have a role to play in our society,” said Omar.
The initiative aspires to reach 500,000 pupils in five years.