Reports on everyday life at the SEKEM School in Egypt
Situated on the edge of the desert, about one hour’s drive from Cairo, the SEKEM farm is far from the urban bustle and the busy streets of the city. For more than 30 years, the SEKEM initiative in Egypt has followed a holistic concept in the promotion of biodynamic agriculture, education and training, as well as social and cultural development.
The school on the SEKEM premises is a private school. It perceives itself as a valuable alternative to Egypt’s public school system which came in last out of 148 countries in the 2013 World Economic Forum’s ranking. In order to gain access to better schooling, many middle and upper class families invest in additional private tuition. Poor farmer families often can’t afford to pay for additional schooling and are left behind. Being a social institution, the SEKEM School gets financial support – a chance also for children from underprivileged families to attend the lessons. It’s the only Egyptian school with elements of Waldorf education in the curriculum. The pupils are children from various social backgrounds and with different religions. In addition to conventional classroom teaching, the school teaches eurythmy, theatre, dance, music and handicrafts. This enables a comprehensive promotion of the children’s social, cultural and educational development.
Giulia Cavalli was trained as a eurythmy teacher in Switzerland. In her home in Schweigmatt, which is also the home of youth welfare organisation Michael-Gemeinschaft, she talks about her six weeks’ working experience at the SEKEM School in Egypt. Giulia’s social commitment, her passion and enthusiasm for this expressive movement art inspired us at Holle to provide financial support for her voluntary work at the school.
For years, we have been supporting the SEKEM initiative in Egypt. We believe that SEKEM is an innovative project that is courageously dealing with some of the most pressing issues of our time, and contributes significantly to a future worth living for the next generations.
Giulia reports on her everyday life and her experiences at the SEKEM School in Egypt and provides an insight into hers and the children’s school routine.
“In the school’s eurythmy pavilion I meet with the pianist who comes here from Cairo four times a week to provide the music for the lessons. Today, I’m just going to watch: I sit down next to the piano and look forward to the Arabic eurythmy lesson. The children are excited too, they keep looking at me, their eyes full of interest and curiosity. I’m getting to know the sixth graders that I’ll soon be teaching.” (Giulia Cavalli)
Many young teachers are working for the SEKEM School. They are all publicly trained and qualified, and they all cherish working for precisely this school. They value the school’s particular educational approach so much that they don’t even mind the long commute many of them have each day to get to the school.
Giulia Cavalli (2nd from the right)
Children with disabilities or special needs receive special care at the SEKEM School. Up to 36 children can attend the lessons in the building of the therapeutic education facility “Special Needs”.
“Today Mrs Noura, the class teacher of the first graders, sat in the courtyard with us. She told me that she was teaching the children how to knit. Knitting is supposed to encourage their fine motor skills and ability to concentrate. Mrs Noura studied psychology. Her way of dealing with her students is both empathetic and strict. Her colleagues (from social workers to social scientists) all seem to be just like her: young, qualified, and full of enthusiasm for their work.” (Giulia Cavalli)
For every degree programme, there is an official curriculum that is determined by the government. The SEKEM School follows this curriculum, adding subjects and lessons according to the SEKEM visions.
The SEKEM School students have a variety of options: If they don’t want to pursue their university-entrance diploma, they can switch to vocational school when they are 15 years old. Here, they are trained to work in agriculture, carpentry, metal working, water engineering, sales or tailoring. Local companies provide a chance for them to put their knowledge into practice.
Noha, a student visiting SEKEM as part of a research project, says her country was going through hard and challenging times. But it’s exactly these challenges that forced people to start thinking and find solutions. Noha is optimistic that they are going to make the best of it.