Major changes at the Centre for Arab-West Understanding

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Sun, 2021-07-11
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On June 30 the extraordinary assembly of the Centre for Arab-West Understanding agreed to change the statutes of our NGO to include the establishment of schools as one of our objectives. Peter Mathias of Achieve Educational Consultants for Tomorrow spoke about our learning center for refugees which has seen tremendous developments from 1 student in 2018 to 30 today and growing to probably 35 students in 2021-2022. Peter Mathias is a former UK principal and government inspector at Ofsted and has inspected over 550 schools during his career. Peter Mathias noted that our learning center has made tremendous improvements in the past year that makes it unique among all learning centers for refugees in Egypt. All schools for refugees in Egypt are, in fact, learning centers since none of them has been recognized by the Ministry of Education.  Most are either church affiliated or are illegal but de facto accepted. Most of these centers teach the Sudanese curriculum since the requirements for teachers and students are not high and thus it is possible to provide this education with relative low costs. We are a recognized NGO and are the only center that provides refugees with British education. The reason is that British education, unlike American or other education systems, is internationally recognized.


The fact that we are an NGO has attracted the interest of Egyptian companies that have chosen to support our learning center as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) such as Majorel Egypt and Mazaya companies. Majorel Egypt has supported our learning center with second-hand computers so that every refugee student at our center is able to have a computer at home. Majorel is also looking at fully upgrading our technical facilities prior to the start of the new school year. Mazaya company is providing our students with their daily lunches. Companies cannot support non-registered entities and are generally very hesitant in supporting religious initiatives since that is seen as partisan.


We have developed an excellent working relationship with the American University in Cairo. Prof. Brooke Comer invited our Learning Centre students in weekly lectures on zoom about African subjects that she was organizing in cooperation with Duke University (USA). Prof. Dr. Thomas Wolsey wrote on May 12 a proposal to move our learning center to the old campus of the AUC at Tahrir square. On May 14 we met with AUC President Francis J. Ricciardone who was all in favor of the proposal of Prof. Wolsey. The proposal is still under discussion at AUC but if this will be granted, we would become eligible to be recognized as a school in Egypt, the first ever for refugees in Egypt. As a school we can apply for Cambridge Assessment accreditation and with this we will be able to provide our refugee students with an internationally recognized diploma. This would be an absolute first in Egypt!! 


We are also seeking a good working relationship with the UNHCR. In order to achieve this our NGO became a UN Partner organization on June 3. The UNHCR sent us a questionnaire about our policies to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation. Of course, we have such policies in place since we work with teenagers.


Peter Mathias spoke about the tremendous opportunities that will come within reach for educating refugees once we have obtained Cambridge Assessment accreditation. It is possible to mix the brightest refugee students with Egyptian school fee paying students and, in this way, make the school in time financially self-supporting.


Prof. Thomas Wolsey spoke at the extraordinary general assembly about the decision-making procedures at the AUC and expressed his hope and expectation that AUC will allow us to make use of AUC’s prestigious old campus. A requirement, however, is that we change the statutes of our NGO. They have to include the purpose of establishing a school because that will make it possible for our NGO to become the legal owner of this school. The extraordinary general assembly unanimously voted in favor of this change. We are now waiting for a formal approval of these changes by the Ministry of Social Solidarity. Once approved we are in a better legal position for cooperation with AUC.


These changes do not change our dedication to intercultural dialogue. This is also reflected in our curriculum. We accept students regardless of their (religious) background and actively stimulate a culture of acceptance of differences and respect for people with different convictions.



July 11, 2021


Cornelis Hulsman,

Principal CAWU-Learning Centre and editor-in-chief of Arab-West Report