Dreams of a Village Preparatory School Realized Through TILO/DCGEP Intervention
February 23, 2011
During a visit to Cairo in June 2009, President Obama told the Egyptian public, “I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.” For the community of Ali Said Village, in the Nasser District of Beni Suef, some 70-miles from Cairo, landowner Azmy Hassan Said has made a tangible commitment to education in his community by donating a tract of agricultural land to build a village school. “I never had an education, but I am giving a chance to others,” said Hassan Said, after signing the land donation contract. Girls especially will benefit from having a school within safe walking distance.
The land in question is located in rural Beni Suef where farming provides for nearly all of a family’s needs. A lush area where small irrigation canals dot the land, much of which is planted with potatoes that farmer’s sell to potato chip factories. With little opportunity for farmers’ children to attend school beyond the six primary school years, land and farming is passed from one generation to the next. The challenge of not having a secondary school within walking distance has been a burden to parents and the community as a whole.
Yet, Hassan Said’s land donation was not serendipitous. The initiative came as a result of Community Outreach Training provided by the USAID-funded Technology for Improved Learning Outcomes (TILO) and its collaboration with the Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership (DCGEP). The TILO/DCGEP association is part of a larger mandate to introduce technology into Egyptian classrooms to enable students to navigate an increasingly globalized world in which computer literacy and knowledge are critical assets. In fulfilling its mandate, the TILO/DCGEP team has transcended expectations including evidence of lowering drop-out rates and in bringing communities together to identify gaps in educational services and by assisting in creating plans to solve challenges.
Led by DCGEP Rabab El Sayed, villagers learned at a meeting that the TILO/DCGEP team has had great outcomes with Community Outreach Training for some 60 schools throughout designated Egyptian communities. Like a ripple effect Sayed’s training has led to offers of land donation by others. In addition to Hassan Said, two more families came forward offering land to build additional schools. These families were upset that they hadn’t been contacted before Hassan Said, because they were the ones that had previously donated the land for the Ali Said School, and they want to contribute to building more schools in their village.
On December 28, 2010, Ali Said villagers gathered for the signing of the land donation raising parents hopes that their children will have a local high school to attend without fear of them walking a long distance to the district school, which caused many girls to discontinue their schooling for fear they would be harassed as they made their way through open fields on their journey to school. Making an unexpected appearance, Suzan Mohammed, a mass communication college student who formerly attended Ali Said School spoke to the Ali Said community.
“When I graduated from Ali Said School, I had very a torturous decision to make — whether to continue my education or put my safety at risk, because I would have to travel a long distant on a daily basis through those open fields. I chose the hard way,” said Mohammed. “When I got out of preparatory school, I faced the same problem, but I again chose the difficult and unsafe way. Now I am a college student and when I found out that my old school has taken the initiative to solve this problem that faces every girl in this village, I decided to come and speak out on behalf of all those girls, who you are giving a chance to continue their education. I thank you all!”
Asked if it was difficult to give away such a large sum (the land donated is estimated at 300,000 L.E.), Hassan Said noted that, “Whatever money I would get from selling this piece of land, I know that giving this money up is for a good cause, my credit with God will always be full.”