Highly ambitious plans to provide affordable quality secondary school education in Egypt

Sent On: 
Sun, 2019-06-23
Newsletter Number: 

Our NGO is about to embark on a huge ambitious undertaking without having, at this stage, the needed funding but in the faith that this can be realized; providing education for students who have no other opportunities for education.


It started in March 2018 with Diana Moore from Liberia/Guinea (now 19). I met with her in the Maadi Community Church and she told me that she was neither going to school nor had work. Thus, I told her she could join our center as an intern and in that way build up experiences that would improve her chances to find a paid job. It turned out that Diana was not able to fill in the internship form. She could hardly read and write and had never been to any regular school before. I found a place for her in StARS refugee school. StARS placed her for age reasons in grade 8. A few months later Diana and I went to see her teacher who told us that Diana never opened her mouth in class. Of course not, Diana was not on the level of grade 8 but possibly on grade 2. The school, however, is not able to place a girl of 19 in a grade 2 class with 7 or 8 year olds. This showed us that regular schools cannot deal with students with large learning gaps.


Diana is the daughter of a Guinean mother and a Liberian father who abandoned mother before Diana was born. Mother took Diana and her younger sister in 2010 to Egypt in order to find work. Mother found low-paid work while Diana was babysitting her younger sister and thus did not go to school. Around 2015 Diana started to go to the Maadi Community Church. Church member Comfort Dickson, a Nigerian student in Cairo, taught Diana how to read but her writing skills were minimal. Comfort had to give attention to her own study and was not able to teach Diana full time. Diana is smart and is eager to learn but has never had the opportunity. We now want to give her that opportunity!


In March 2019 we discovered that St. Joseph Parish in Zamalek, Cairo, is taking care of 180 Eritrean refugees up to grade 8 in the Sudanese curriculum. The Sudanese curriculum is not recognized outside Sudan. Thus, further education is impossible. As a consequence, the Eritrean refugee community in Cairo is not able to groom their own community leaders. Students finishing grade 8 end up as low-paid domestic and manual workers with scant perspectives on a better future.


American educator Lori Lawson has been living for over ten years in Cairo and is a long-time friend of Arab-West Report. In 2018 I met with Egyptian educator Mostafa el-Sayed [Muṣṭafā al-Sayyīd]. Together we decided that we should establish a Learning Center for students who have no other opportunities for secondary education in Cairo. We spoke about this with officials at the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity who told us we are not allowed to call this a school since we are an NGO and therefore not resorting under the ministry of education. We are ambitious. We want to prepare students for the IGCSE exams which are internationally recognized. We are not licensed to take such exams but for that reason we agreed with the New Cairo British International School (NCBIS) that students will be able to take their exams there. We are very grateful they are making that possible.



We will become the first Learning Center that provides an opportunity for students to switch from a Sudanese curriculum to an international recognized curriculum. We will also be the first to provide remedial education and the first Learning Center where students with a refugee background and those from regular foreign families will come together since also many regular foreign families face problems with the high costs of international schools. Our center will further assist informal refugee centers to upgrade their curriculum and teaching methodologies since that will help the transfer from a Sudanese education to internationally recognized education. These are just of few of the points that make our initiative totally unique in Egypt. Combining all these elements has never been done before anywhere in Egypt.


We have the benefit of having many student volunteers who can assist teachers in various tasks, but volunteers alone cannot run a Learning Center. We, therefore, need to hire an administrator/teacher and a teacher who need to be truly qualified in order to be able to deal with the challenging situations that we are facing. At the same time, we need to keep school fees low because if they are too high the students of the Learning Center would not be able to afford this. We have calculated that, once we have established the Learning Center, our running costs could be covered with 1000 Euro per student per year. That is far lower than any of the international schools in Egypt.  But refugee students will nevertheless not be able to pay even the 1000 Euro per student per year and thus we are planning to build community sponsorships, encouraging families, schools, clubs and churches to sponsor the education of one or more students.


We have asked schools in Cairo to donate books. Yesterday we received two mini-truckloads full of books.  All 15 interns and staff were needed to help carry this to the fourth floor where were NGO is located.



The plans are both ambitious and realistic. Please write us if you would like to see a copy of these plans. But there are also costs to build this Learning Center. We can start with 15-20 students in the low-rent flat of our NGO but that flat needs repairs costing 15.000 EgP (750 Euro), we need cupboards for the books, we need plates, cups, cutlery to provide the students with lunches (since most do not have much at home to eat), we need desks, chairs and many other things. Thus please support us! Help us realize these truly ambitious plans. Donations can be made through paypal or bank transfer with the Arab-West Foundation in the Netherlands. Members of our NGO can also make donations in Egypt.

Please also spread the word about the vacancies in your circle. We need people who are professional, ready to pioneer and see this as their mission in life.


The educational needs are huge and so are the opportunities to truly provide this group with a future that without our Learning Center would never get. Please support this in whatever way you can.



Cairo, June 23, 2019


Cornelis Hulsman