Takatof Association for Development is breathing new life into an old dilapidated school building in Matareya by updating the school’s facilities to meet 21st Century educational standards.
Takatof is a non-profit organization that works on urban and community projects to enhance the lives of people at the bottom of the economic pyramid by renovating public schools and enhancing the learning experience for students with a focus on teachers and students. It also provides medical care for those in need.
In an event that took place on October 9 at Hilton Ramses, Takatof presented its newest project: to renovate and enhance the Hoda El Shaarawy school in Matareya.
The graceful but decaying building that was established in 1955, only underwent renovations once, ten years ago.
Why this School?
“We did not randomly choose any school in Matareya, rather we selected Hoda El Sharaawy because of the philosophy that it represents. El Sharaawy is a true symbol to the liberation of women in Egypt,” explains Hossam Badrawy, Chairman of Takatof.
The Project’s Aim
Funded by the European Union (EU) and the German government, the total expected duration of this project is 14 months, from August 2017 to September 2018. Students have been relocated to a different campus until the structural repairs are complete, which are expected to take five months, according to Mireille Nessim, CEO of Takatof.
“The physical environment of a school is important, but we are not here to provide cement and steel rods. We are here to equip students with tools to be better human beings and to stimulate minds and shape personalities,” says Badrawy.
The project is currently benefiting a total of 1986 Matareya residents, including 1332 students, 56 teachers, 300 parents and 200 community residents. Originally, the target was to enroll 1000 students, but as more people in Matareya heard about the renovations, a higher number than expected enrolled. The school was able to accommodate that number because of the way physical space is being created through larger classrooms.
The school is redesigned to be more spacious with the establishment of new classrooms and activity rooms as well as a lengthened playground. Also, the details will be taken care of – windows are being enlarged to create more light and aeration in classrooms, lockers are being installed for teachers’ privacy, kindergarten is being separated from the rest of the school and separate rooms are being created for administration staff and social workers.
The project will also establish a food service facility, ensuring its own financial sustainability as the organization plans to only provide it with money once. The renovations of the new campus also feature new bathrooms, a different color scheme based on color psychology and the introduction of solar energy to generate electricity for the school.
The organization was waiting for the approval of the Minister of Education to create more flexible space by changing the arrangement of desks in the classroom that are currently lined up in rows for exams. Since new separate examination rooms are being built, the classroom can now lend itself to more active, cooperative learning. Towards the end of the event, Reda Hegazy, head of the public education sector, and present in the panel on behalf of the minister of education, strongly welcomed the idea of altering the classroom layout.
Teachers went through a comprehensive training program during the summer holidays. Ahmed Shawky, Treasurer of Takatof, explained that a key indicator of the project’s success is the teacher’s feedback on the level of improvement. The goal is to have at least 70% of the teachers confirm that the students are receiving better education.
A video was presented during the event showing how the organization was running these training programs. Teachers were taught how to embark on collaborative practices and engage with students through role-play practices, stretching exercises and extensive instructions. It was clear that teachers were not being trained to teach particular facts, but instead to keep students motivated and focused using different educational strategies.
“Due to the training program, we were able to improve our teaching methods. I used to use dated methods, but I am now able to develop and modernize them to benefit the students,” mentions one teacher in the video.
The video also showed how teachers were taught to handle students with learning difficulties. In the future, old teachers will train newcomers, hence ensuring the technical sustainability of the project.
Special Needs and Healthcare
Steering the path of development, there is also an effort to establish an inclusive school that integrates special needs students into the mainstream classroom. A resource room will also be added to provide extra help to students with learning difficulties. This project encompasses development through its inter-relatedness with the rights of persons with disabilities. The idea is that education should be based on individual differences – the range of intellectual ability and capacity to absorb information at different rates.
Takatof will also provide access to eye health care where 70% of students will receive ophthalmological services. Most students learn through the visual system, hence good eyes is critical to the child’s ability to benefit from educational experiences.
The Project’s Concept
The project is devoted to a mission of providing access to education to unlock the vast potential of all students. We often forget that if everyone can get their foot on the opportunity ladder then this leads to a maximization of benefits to society as a whole.
“Education is the backbone of a successful society. This development project provides the people of Matareya with the choice to improve their overall living standards to open the gates to a better future,” says Abeer Saheb, head of the GIZ fund. The project will inspire students to enhance their thinking by providing a more pleasurable learning experience. For example, it offers “fun days” and summer and mid-year camps.
“We are promoting a concept of growth and development. For example, this project serves as a model against terrorism. When freedom is threatened, civil society must stand together and this is how real change takes place and this is what Takatof tries to do,” explains Maged Osman, Vice Chairman of Takatof.
In many Egyptian schools, art is sometimes seen as less important than the more “strategic” subjects. Takatof tries to remedy this neglect in Hoda El Sharaawy by offering facilities to cater for art. Art and music classrooms, a theater and an art open studio are under construction.
Other impressive developments are the science labs for practical experiments that will help students effectively learn theoretical concepts of science, promoting their interest and engagement.
One key goal of the project is to raise awareness of both students and parents on violence, sexual harassment and the environment. The school will also start an environmental initiative under the slogan “My school is my home”.
“If the new generation is loyal and proud of their school, they will be loyal and proud of their country and this is what we need. We are supporting this project to help develop our country and find solutions for our problems,” emphasizes Khaled Mohamady, head of the Matareya district.
“Education is not just about grades. The school’s philosophy is what is important and we need to differentiate between education and skills. Active learning is a strategy that is employed in the classroom and applied in real life situations. This is what builds character,” concludes Hegazy.