After waking up to a serene misty morning, we enjoyed a delicious Egyptian breakfast and embarked on the first day of our week-long SEKEM partner visit. We began with their morning practice of forming a circle where we introduced ourselves to each other. We were told that starting the day in a circle is a SEKEM tradition that symbolises equality. It is their way of wishing each other a good day.
A holistic approach to education
Today’s programme revolves around SEKEM’s holistic approach to education and cultural life. SEKEM believes that “education is the foundation of holistic human development and advancement of all.” The SEKEM Development Foundation started the school in 1989 and ranges from nursery to secondary school, consisting of more than 350 pupils and students from all different social levels. They live in the surrounding areas and many are children of SEKEM employees. The SEKEM school is certified by the Egyptian Ministry of Education. In addition to the standard curriculum, it promotes culture, social awareness, visual and performing arts, and sports. It is strongly influenced by the Waldorf education approach of Rudolf Steiner.
When we arrived at the school grounds, the children were getting ready for their morning circle practice followed by a song and the Egyptian national anthem. After taking a quick look at the primary school classrooms, we went to the nursery and kindergarten for children from 1 to 3 years old. The nursery started in 1988 as a small facility providing early childhood education and services to young mothers working at SEKEM. Now it has grown and is indispensable to many workers at the SEKEM farm and also for children from the surrounding communities.
SEKEM also has a school for children with special needs from ages 6 to 14. Currently there are 36 pupils, including children from the nearby villages. Children are taught social and technical skills by specially trained teachers.
Vocational courses for women
While the morning was getting warmer, we headed to the Vocational Training Centre and saw students enjoying their break under the shadows of the trees that occupy the farm complex. The vocational centre, established in 1999, offers various 3-year courses to young people such as mechanics, plumbing, agriculture machinery mechanics, general administration and welding. It was encouraging to see many of the girls training in traditionally male vocational courses (such as carpentry and electronics) and some of the male students are found in the ready-made garment course.
The head of the vocational school happily told us that since there is a mix between girls and boys in some of the courses, the atmosphere during the class has changed for the better. The teacher of the electronics class, who is a female engineer, couldn’t agree more. Given the high standards of education, students graduating from the vocational school have good employment prospects and many of them end up working for one of SEKEM’s companies.
This is the second in a series of blogs covering a partner visit to SEKEM in Egypt. Partner visits provide people within the Oikocredit network the opportunity to visit and learn more about one of our partners across the globe. Those participating in the visit will keep you updated on their findings through this blog.