Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Suzie's" life

Yesterday my position as "Director of CEP" was certainly put to use.

Yohannes, our administrative guru, set up a meeting with a student and her parent. This is common; at least once a week I have a meeting with a student and a parent to discuss discipline issues of some sort. We meet in the conference room; Yohannes to my left, the parent to my right, and the student somewhere near us as Yohannes translates the discussion for me. Yesterday's case was a bit different. The situation was that Suzie (obviously not her name) has been in the same class for a couple years now and is not showing improvement. We were concerned there was something negative going on in her family life.

Through the discussion we discovered that the parent was actually Suzie's "stepmom," as Yohannes put it. In fact, Suzie's father has/had three wifes. He is living in Sudan still while the three wives have been living in Egypt (except now the first wife is dead). For some reason Suzie is not living with the second wife, Suzie's mom, but instead living with the third wife. This isn't so much an issue in fact, being that in Sudan children are often raised by the whole community. Suzie is one of "Sandy's" (Wife #3) "own" in a sense. Also, the family is financially stable with enough money for rent, food, and clothing. There does not seem to be any sign of abuse.

Anyhow, Suzie and her sister (also a St. Andrews student) often miss school and tend to be missing on different days. Thus far Suzie's story has been that she says at her aunt's home or grandma's home and doesn't come to school because she sleeps in and stays there. Wife #3 explained that auntie and grandma give Suzie money for the metro and send her off at an appropriate time in the morning for class. So, essentially everyone is doing their part with the expectation that Suzie and her sister are at school. At the appropriate time after school ends Suzie comes home and everythings seems fine.

So yesterday the news came out that Suzie is in fact not at school all the time...yikes. Where she goes and what she is doing no one knows but it's obvious she is hiding something from everyone. We tried to get her to talk about it but she wouldn't say a word. She wouldn't look at any of us and wouldn't answer any questions.

My heart was breaking watching her. The worst case scenerios were running through my mind. Is this budding, beautiful 13-year old getting involved in drugs, gangs, or sex? What could she possibly be doing or wanting that would make her decide to not come to school? Thing is, St. Andrews is such a refuge for these children. On the streets they are harrassed but at St. Andrews they can relax, learn, and spend time with their peers. I cannot understand why anyone of them would actively choose to wander the streets (or whatever) instead of coming to school. Whatever is going on in Suzie's world it must be big and it frightens me for her.

Yohannes expressed his concern that Suzie just doesn't want to learn--perhaps she would prefer a school that teachs arabic instead of English. Maybe she doesn't like to live with Sandy. He asked me what we should do.

And what should we do? I said she must start coming to class more regularly is she is serious about learning. There have been families waiting to get children into St. Andrews for a couple years, so if a student is not going to try, we need to let other students come. Now that Sandy knows the situation about Suzie's unknown whereabouts, hopefully they can do something to make sure she stays off the streets and comes to class. I also told Suzie it is important for her to tell us what is going on in her life. Something is clearly wrong and we want to help her. Yohannes suggested that Suzie talk with either Mariam or Amany, two of our women teachers. However, he's not sure she will because, as he said, "In this culture the reputation is very important and she is scared about the gossip it will bring." Oh man.

My prayer is for Suzie to come clean to someone and let us know what is going on in her life. I fear that Suzie is too deeply involved in something or too scared to let it out, but insha 'allah she will get the help she needs.


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