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Education reaches girls at a child-friendly school in rural Egypt

By Alissa Shapiro

CAIRO, Egypt, 16 August 2010 – Yusriya, 13, wears her teacher-made crown with pride. A confident smile spreads across her face as she begins her class presentation on sanitation.

VIDEO - UNICEF correspondent Nina Martinek reports on the child-friendly schools initiative reaching girls in rural Egypt.


Yusriya is the first one in the classroom every morning, gathering her classmates’ name tags and handing them to students as they queue up at the start of class.

Changing mindsets

“School is the place I love to be,” said Yusriya. According to her teachers at Al-Soulieman school, the fourth-grader is a natural leader – she participates, works hard and encourages other students. 

© UNICEF video
Yusriya, 13, a student in rural southern Egypt, is the first female in her family to receive an education.

Yet here in rural southern Egypt, Yusriya recently had only a slim chance to even attend school. She lives just down a single-lane road from Al-Soulieman, where tenant farmer families like hers dot wide fields. In this rural region, four and half hours south of the capital of Cairo, very few adults are educated – virtually none of them women. Yusriya’s mother and older sisters were not allowed to go to school, nor were any of her older female relatives. But that changed when Al-Soulieman opened four years ago with UNICEF support. 

The school’s goal is to bring top-quality education to children in this remote area. As part of the UNICEF Child-Friendly Schools initiative, it places the needs and rights of children at the forefront of its activities. Since many of Egypt’s national schools are far from rural villages like Yusriya’s, UNICEF is helping to bring education to one-room schools closer to home. And as families traditionally keep their daughters at home while their sons walk to school – sometimes hours each way – girls, in particular, are recruited to the programme.

In addition, field specialists are visiting communities without schools throughout the area, working with families there to help create one.

Equal voices

Sending girls to school is a new concept in this part of Egypt. To widen awareness and give girls an equal voice, the new schools are rooted in democratic education. All students have the opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions. They are given a choice in the subjects they study and how they learn, and are presented with many opportunities to lead and speak in front of their classmates.

© UNICEF video
Yusriya, 13 (left), with fellow students at Al-Soulieman school in southern Egypt. The school is a one-room child-friendly learning environment supported by UNICEF.

Yusriya now wants to be a doctor. She wants to help her family and her community, and she is not only hopeful, but confident that she will get there.

When asked how long her goal will take to achieve, Ysuriya smiled. “Ten years,” she replied, undaunted. She knows that the biggest challenge – beginning school in the first place – has already been overcome.



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