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Cairo Update

Date Written:
  10 October 1997
  Problem Teenagers
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Hi! Another weekly update from you know who.

This afternoon went for my usual Friday afternoon teaching session at a Arabic speaking "Club" near-by. I'm really encouraged by the way that the numbers of children are increasing but this sometimes brings additional problems. I was warned this morning about what happened last week when three children from a background not used to this kind of thing appeared and were quite disruptive. I wasn't there that week so I wondered what I was going to let myself in for today.

The thing to remember about Egyptian schools is that there is a lot of discipline and much of the teaching is done by rote, there is little emphasis on understanding. The teachers don't use creative methods at all. When the children go into school "mode" it means "Sit down, shut up and listen". They bring this mentality with them to the club so there is hardly any disruption. I've been amazed at their attention span- even after more than half an hour of non-stop talking from Egyptian teachers the children are still listening intently and responding well to questions (this is true for even the 5 - 7 year-old age range!)

The three boys causing disruption were Egyptians attending the International American school here in Cairo. Here the philosophy of teaching seems to be "Do what you like, as long as you don't hurt anybody" ie there seems to be very liberal views on discipline and morality. All of the children come from rich families (you can tell by the school fees) and many of them are used to getting everything that they want.

When I arrived at the club (after an intense session of "petition" during my walk there) I was greeted by the three boys in question. They decided that the singing during the first half of the time was boring so they went off to do something else and to wait for me to come. (They had heard about me from the other children). Since they spoke English (the teaching language at the school) I was able to talk to them directly which was a great relief. Overall I found that they were just like normal children from a "non-club" background in Britain. I made friends with them easily and they agreed to let me get set-up and listen during the teaching.

The teaching session went really well. I only had to speak to the boys twice at the beginning of the lesson about shouting out questions and after that they listen throughout. I did a sketchboard message about Peter and the way he had changed after the HS came on him. They really like the magic tricks and they even asked me to go along to their school and do the same kind of thing! (I doubt they would have me!)

The Egyptian club leaders informed me how much better they listened this time. The truth of the matter is that they are no worse than most English children but by Egyptian standards this is too disruptive! I mentioned that I was like this too up to the age of 15, I'd go along to these kinds of clubs and cause disruption but now I know what it is like to be on the receiving end . . . but at least I know from experience about how they think.

PLEASE join with us to "think" about these children- it took me over 2 years to change but I hope that it will be much quicker with them. From now on I know that I cannot take the children's attention for granted as I did before, I have to strive to keep everything relevant and interesting. This is how I would have to do it back in Britian anyway but here I've become lazy, spoilt on the main part by well behaved children with an incredible attention span.

Much of the remainder of this week has been taken up with upgrading my computer and dealing with the resulting problems. Some more work has come from London for me so I will be busy with this for much of the coming weeks.

Alison's help at a local school continues to be appreciated. She has dropped the number of hours that she helps and is now just helping with training a new teacher. Hannah continues to charm and impress the people that she meets.

I hope to have some more news about our house soon, we MAY have found a Korean couple who are interested but we'll need to see. If this is the case I'd like to help them out as much as possible. Please could you ask Mike Rogers about our Fiat. If he hasn't sold it yet could he hold onto it for now to give it to the Koreans if they come . . . this is assuming that it is still road-worthy!

We'll be writing again soon with another update . . .

Greetings to all!

Jason, Alison and Hannah

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It's a Fact!

Facts about Egypt:

  • Egypt's population is 66 Million

  • Egypt is four times the size of the UK

  • Only 3% of the land can be used for arable crops

  • Cairo has 18 million people and is growing by 1 millon each year.

  • Cairo is the Largest city in Africa and the Middle East

  • Official literacy rate is only 45%

  • A total of 11 languages are spoken in Egypt

  • Public Debt per person is $790

  • Average annual income is $630

  • Unemployment is estimated to be 17%

  • Religion: Approx. 85% Muslim and 15% Christian

  • Most Christians are affiliated to the Orthodox Church, less than 1% of the population are Protestant

  • There are an estimated 100,000 street children in Cairo.


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