Monday,18 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)
Monday,18 December, 2017
Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Back to school with integrity

An Alexandria project is helping the city’s disadvantaged children on their way back to school, writes Ameera Fouad

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The hours and days are ticking by and the school gates will be opening soon for a new academic year, if they have not already done so. The back-to-school period can be an expensive time for any parent, with everything seemingly needing to be bought brand new, including new shoes, a new bag and a new school uniform. While it can be a fun time for children, for their parents it may be a troubling time of year when they have to spend a lot of their savings.
No matter how old a child may be, the education process in Egypt can be very costly, not only to modestly off families but also for the richer ones as well. It is for this reason that a new project, run by the group Techno Kids in Alexandria, could help bring back the smile to parents’ faces, helping them cope with the stresses of the back-to-school period.
The project promotes social integrity, which does not only mean helping to meet the cost of school fees but also embraces a range of social, educational and cultural issues as well. Techno Kids is a publisher of technology materials for the educational curriculum, helping children learn the skills that can help them succeed in the digital age. Its materials help young people to explore the world of technology through computers, smart phones, play-stations, robots and more, while at the same time helping to assuage some of the anxieties of their parents.
“Teaching is mixed with fun and playing. Physics can be taught while taking lessons in scuba-diving, mathematics can be taught in robot classes, and so on,” explained Ayman Al-Kabbani, chairman of Techno Kids. The idea is that children should love science and technology, and that this can help them with their academic work. “The objective is the human brain,” Al-Kabbani said, the material helping young children to appreciate how this works and what its capabilities are.
Teaching children technology is not the only aim of Techno Kids, however. “We’re teaching them how to be human beings and how to sympathise with others. This is the aim of our campaign this year,” Al-Kabbani said, adding that the provider was running a fund-raising campaign for families unable to pay school fees.
Techno Kids in collaboration with the City Centre Alexandria mall has been conducting a campaign to help children in need this year. “The administration of this large company is hosting kids from poor areas in Alexandria, allowing them to spend a whole day in Carrefour for free, for example, including in Fun City, the cinemas, and in various restaurants in the Food Court. Techno Kids is raising funds for school bags, stationary and everything else that can contribute to their school work,” Al-Kabbani said.
One main goal of the campaign is to teach the students social integrity and to encourage them to mix with other young people their age who may come from different social backgrounds. “My 10-year-old son has helped me out greatly in this project. I believe it is very important to show him that many kids are born underprivileged and do not have what he has. This teaches him how to care more about money and the things he has,” Al-Kabbani explained to Al-Ahram Weekly. It is essential that young people understand that they are not alone in the world and that it is their duty to help others, he said.
The day at the project started with three buses loaded with more than 250 students coming from three different villages located on the outskirts of Alexandria, Halab, Damascus and Dahshour, arriving in the city centre. The students took up their places in the City Centre mall and started their day by watching an animated movie in the cinema.
“I am very happy. Finally, I have been able to go to a cinema and watch a movie. I have never been to a cinema before. We don’t even have a television at home, but sometimes we watch cartoons at our neighbour’s house,” said Hala Reda, a second-year primary student who was dazzled and amused by everything she saw. “I wish my mother could be here with me. It’s like a dream coming true.” To many of these students, it is their first time to go to the cinema, or the first time that they have been able to go while still completing their educational tasks.
After watching the movie and joining the group in the playground at Fun City, Ahmed Al-Sayed, 12, expressed how difficult it would be for him and his family to come to the City Centre mall on their own. “It’s the second time I’ve been to a cinema to watch a 3D movie. Last time I went I remember I felt guilty as my father had had to work hard so that he could take us to the cinema and pay more than LE200 for the whole family. After that, I never asked my father for anything. But today I am overwhelmed and extremely happy. I wish I could come here twice a year,” Al-Sayed said.
Mustafa, a fourth-grade student, asked for his photograph to be taken with his new school bag. “It’s the first time in my life that I have had a brand new school bag. I always get a second-hand one or one used by my elder brothers,” he exclaimed in delight. Mustafa, who wants to be a policeman when he grows up, was among many other children who needed more than just new school bags or more school supplies. “My dream is to have a good education, to work on computers and to do research in laboratories. But our computer rooms at school are always closed. Our school principal does not allow us to enter them,” he said.
Dahlia Abdel-Gawad, the mother of two of the children on the day, said that the event had been marvellous and inspiring for all concerned. “It teaches everyone social integrity and how to care more about others who are in need,” she said. Abdel-Gawad wanted her children to participate in activities designed to help others. “I wanted my 14- and 10-year-olds to appreciate what it means to belong to a different social class and to impress on them that they have a role to play towards the society and towards other children as well.”
Salah Abdel-Nabi, one of the children invited to the event, is a 12-year-old bookworm. He loves books, and he adores his science teacher in the state school he attends. Not surprisingly, his role model is the famous Egyptian scientist Ahmed Zuweil. “It is my second time entering Carrefour, and I enjoy everything here. Everything is free today, but I wish we could have free access to books all the year round,” he said.
What he would like to see, he said, was a public library in his school or neighbourhood. “We need books to be cheaper. I read old books and anything I can lay my hands on, but I would love to be able to read new books as well.” If Egypt is to have more people like Ahmed Zuweil, he said, it would need to refurbish the educational system.
On the day itself, colours could be seen everywhere, with balloons hanging from the ceilings to the floors. Cartoons were scattered around, and animal stickers had been stuck in every corner. People dressed as cartoon characters had come to play with the children, and fast-food franchises had chipped in by providing food. There seemed to be so much giving taking place that it was difficult to count all the donors or know exactly who had given what. However, most importantly the children were all having fun.
The day ended by the children being given their school bags, copybooks, school stationary, and envelopes containing LE50, the hope being that these things would help them over the next school year. The government last week decided to exempt parents from paying tuition fees at state schools, so it is hoped that the parents will find other good uses for the money.

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