Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Monday, May 22, 2006

End of School Year

I cannot believe the school year is already over, but it is! Last Wednesday was our closing ceremony day at St. Andrews. The last day of school was supposed to be Thursday, but we had to change that last minute due to the protests going on every Thursday around our school.

The ceremony was much like the fall; we invite parents to attend as each class presents a song or dance (this year included Jump, Jump, Voices of Peace, When you are happy and you know it, Boom Dee ah Dah, I love you, The Lost Children (Michael Jackson), Let's Talk about Love (Celine Dion), Let Me Love You) for the audience and then we give out certificates. Oh boy do we give out certificates. We had certificates for attendance, good conduct, math, science, sport, computer, language arts, music, art, and general studies. Also, every student received a certificate of 'attendance in the st. andrew's children education program' with their report card on the back of it. These thick paper certificates (that I had the privilege to design and sign!) are, to some people, as important as a high school diploma fis or Americans. A couple weeks ago when we realized time was running out and we had to cancel a couple days of school I was thinking of just giving out 3 types of certificates but Yohannes was quick to tell me that would not be good. The certificate is so very important to them in their culture.

Actually, an interesting story about a certificate. During the ceremony one young student came approached me as Yohannes and I were annoucing something to everyone and it was clear he was quite nervous and upset. He wanted to tell me that his certificate was not right. He was trying to explain that his second name was incorrect. I told him to sit down and talk with me after the ceremony. So, hours later he and his mom took the certificate to Yohannes and the mother (who I know well) was very upset. She told Yohannes that if the name wasn't spelt correctly, her husband could divorce her! It needed to be changed! I was trying to figure that one out. In this woman's case, her husband is Christian and she was a Muslim until just last month when she converted to Christianity. (Secretly of course because you must be secret about conversion or else you could be killed.) I was told she was probably really upset because an incorrect last name would be a disgrace to her husband, and even if he didn't want to divorce her he might have to in order to "save face", which is often one of the most important things to do. In many African and Arab cultures one's second name is his or her father's first name, and the third name is the grandfather's name, fourth name is great-grandfather. I actually know some people named such things as Mohammed Ishmail Mohamed Ahmed or Sadam Sadam Ahmed Sadam.

This weekend I received the final tally of report card marks for each class. Many students passed their classes and are able to move on. Some, unfortunately, are not. The most disturbing thing was to look at the Teen 4 class. Out of 15 students, 11 failed. Eleven! I knew that wasn't the whole story, however. There is more to it than meets the eye. Immediately I spoke with Dick about this and also with the Teen 4 teacher, Amany (who is an excellent teacher). Amany said that a few of the kids did indeed fail, but some of them just froze and didn't test well. At least two of the female students got so scared they just couldn't think and did poorly, even though they had done well all year.

However, there is a bigger issue--most of them just don't want to pass. Why? Because they don't know what else to do. Teen 4 is the highest level for our children's program, and most of the students are in the late teenage years. If they want to, they can join the adult program in a year or two, but they don't want to do that. These poor kids, they don't have a college to go to, they don't have plans for their future, they don't have jobs to apply for and work towards, they don't have reason to be motivated and work hard to get a good education because what ever comes of it? (Of course, we know for those who end up resettling to a place like America, they need an education and it matters. But here, it's not the case. A lot of the most educated people are the ones without jobs.) We are trying to think of what we can do to help them, such as providing more internet classes, an accounting class, and maybe some writing and literature courses. But when you think of it, it's just so sad. What do they do?


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