Alfanar in Egypt: How "Ownership" is transforming Education

An Educate-Me classroom at the community school in Talbeya.

Fatma walks around class, making sure that each child is caught up on the day’s material. As a class facilitator, she knows each child’s specific quirks, needs and learning pace.

She describes how happy she is that Educate-Me recently acquired a community school license. She can barely stop smiling as she talks about it. Fatma, along with other Educate-Me class facilitators, has lived in Talbeya, a Cairo slum, her entire life.

The past few months have been stressful for her, as skeptics from the community have questioned the school’s value in the absence of a license. Fatma laughs it off now; she recalls just how happy she was to inform those same people that, as of April 2016, Educate-Me is officially a community school and quite certainly the best place in Talbeya to send your child for high-quality education.

For Fatma, Educate-Me is not just a workplace; it is her seven year-old daughter’s only hope for a better future. Fatma has witnessed an impressive transformation in Habiba since she began attending Educate-Me.

Habiba displaying her numerical skills using play dough — a fun and engaging way to reinforce learning

Habiba displaying her numerical skills using play dough — a fun and engaging way to reinforce learning

“I started noticing her behaviour changing with others; she started saying things like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. She became more conversational and vocal about her opinions. Seeing the change in her made me join the school and push other parents to enrol their children as well. I felt that even if they [Educate-Me] had never been certified, this is exactly the environment I want for Habiba.” — Fatma

Children at the Educate-Me community school are encouraged to engage artistically.

Talbeya, like countless poor areas in Egypt, is labelled a ‘slum’. In Arabic, the word for ‘slum’ comes from the word ‘random’ — “عشوائيات” — and holds more truth to the daily reality of its inhabitants than its English counterpart. As Fatma puts it: “Life here is random; children grow up on the street and those that do make it to public school get lost in the system. They often encounter violence and abuse. I don’t want that for Habiba.”

Fatma loves how Educate-Me is making Habiba more independent, flexible and collaborative. Sometimes she worries about how Habiba will be able to deal with the challenging surroundings of her Talbeya community - but this is a risk she is ready to take to help ensure her daughter a better future.

Teachers, facilitators and mothers of the Eduacte-Me children.

Fatma, Hind and Shaimaa are all teachers and facilitators at Educate-Me’s Talbeya school. They are also mothers to children enrolled in and attending Educate-Me every day. In other words, the school’s fabric is made up of its most important stakeholders; the members of the community it is serving. Like any other mother, these women will stop at nothing to give their children the best of everything and they believe Educate-Me serves that purpose.

Educate-Me is shaping local solutions to Egypt’s education crisis by encouraging direct collaboration with the community. Collaboration empowers the community with a sense of ownership over their education. 

Taking ownership over one’s education is the first step to taking ownership over one’s destiny.

When we foster aspiration, hope, goal-setting and life skills in our children, no matter what neighborhood they are born into, we take the first step to charting a better future for all of Egypt.

Who is Educate-Me?

Initially an after-school learning centre in the slum area of Talbeya, Giza, Educate-Me applied for community school status in 2015 after realizing that it could not positively shape the future of children through after-school engagement alone. Educate-Me employs a learner-centred approach that helps students become active decision-makers in their own destiny by fostering the following skills — critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and productivity. 

In 2015, through SODIC’s investment, Alfanar embarked on pilot investment in Educate-Me. As the Arab region’s first venture philanthropy organization,  Alfanar was delighted to partner with SODIC to build a multi-faceted, high engagement partnership built around the shared belief that investing in education is critical to ensuring Egypt’s long-term success, breaking cycles of poverty and creating a fairer society.

Through SODIC and Alfanar’s investment, Educate-Me has not only grown the number of children it serves in Talbeya, but it is now setting up a second school. In addition, to ensure its long-term sustainability, Educate-Me has developed a series of 'for-fee' teacher training courses, which allow it to diffuse its approach widely and to generate fee-based income to support its running costs.

You can invest in Educate-Me by making a donation here.