While some parents try all the tricks of the world to get their kids to love school, one extraordinary school established itself as an attraction for a neighborhood’s kids to the extent that they saved from their own pocket money just to afford paying the transportation expenses their parents cut-off.
The one of a kind Educate Me is a non-profit foundation aiming to restructure education in Egypt. In 2010, it started as a Facebook fundraising initiative to support the school essentials of less-privileged kids. Later they realized that their efforts were insufficient because the main problem was the lack of quality and equity of education, especially for low income students.
“When we think of education, it’s not only about being able to read and write. It’s ultimately the pursuit of self-actualization, for the individual to know who they are, what their choices are, and to be able to use these choices to maximize their potential and that of others,” says Yasmine Helal, the Founder and Executive Director of Educate Me.
Accordingly, they instituted their foundation based on two mechanisms, a preschool and school in Talbiya district, and intervention programs to enhance the performance of public schools.
The Talbiya School has about 310 fulltime students and 75% employees from the local community, parents and youth. At first it was an after-school program but later developed into a full-time community school to have more time with the students, ensure the children’s dedication, and assess the impacts of their efforts.
Educate Me’s intervention programs occur through partnerships with public schools to provide sufficient tools, hold workshops, and enable connections between different educators. It takes from 1-3 years, and the communication usually stays on the long-run. So far, they have reached 117 schools in seven governorates, impacting 4,000 educators and indirectly reaching more than 40,000 students.
“We believe that education helps us realize our tools. Not the education that helps us succeed academically only or get employed. But generally to be successful in life, in all different fronts such as being good parents, siblings, and so forth,” Yasmine adds.
Hence, the foundation’s educational model blends the national curriculum with interactive, critical thinking and collaborating skills, present in either the content or the delivery. Despite the rigidity of the national curriculum, Yasmine emphasized that it’s not the point.
“The content is rigid, but the way is not as rigid. For instance, if I have a lesson about river Nile, I can use it to memorize something about it. I can also use to learn about resources or climate change. It is how you deliver the message and put the emphasis as a facilitator,” she adds.
The foundation tests its efficiency on the students relying on scientific evidence like the longitudinal study they conducted in collaboration with the US based organization Rise Egypt. The study suggested that Educate Me students outperformed other students in all the development domains such as literacy, numeracy, and social development by 10%. With public schools interventions, they found 48% enhancement in the educators’ performance post their intervention.
Unlike our presumptions, Educate Me’s team did not have a hard time convincing parents to enroll in their school. As Yasmine clarifies, the parents believe in education and its value to provide a better future for their kids. Being free of charge was also another factor that caught the parents’ attention.
Yet, the team’s always being challenged to preserve the organization’s identity and maintain their growth at the same time, especially through collaborating with partners who align with them on their same vision.
The school is still working on incorporating an alumni program to include their students even after they graduate their eight-year education period. They are planning to reach 410 students, and secure scholarships for the entirety of their eight years.
Yasmine shares with us her take-home advice to people working in the development field,
“When it comes to development, people tend to think that you are just going to walk in, anything you’ll do will be good enough. But this really is not the truth. It is important to take the time to really understand if and how your support is needed.”
Educate Me is aspiring reach millions of students with quality education in Egypt and the region. They are currently funded by Al Fanar Venture Philanthropists, SODIC, and other NGOs. Yet, they do accept donations and volunteers to keep expanding!
Checkout their Facebook account Educate Me علمني and Instagram educate.me
Or their Website http://educateme-egypt.org