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Volunteer-Run Kindergarten in Upper Egypt Serves a Culturally Deprived Area

A kindergarten that was honored in Egypt’s National Reading Project last fall is providing educational services and enrichment activities to culturally deprived children in Deshna, about 600 kilometres south of Cairo.

The volunteer-run Abdel Rahim Scientific Kindergarten was established in 2013 by Sheikh Mohamed Abdul Qadir in memory of his son Abdel Rahim, a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Helwan University in Cairo who died as a young man.

Despite its limited resources, the school managed to win one of six incentive awards in the first round of the project’s national competition in October. The other winners included the National Library and Documentation House and the Egypt Public Libraries Series.

The ten-year National Reading Project began in March 2020 and is organised by the Scientific Research Foundation (Egypt-Dubai), in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Social Solidarity. The project receives a subsidy of half a billion Egyptian pounds (about $32 million).

“After eight years of work, we have many students who have enrolled in distinguished colleges in universities, and who are still connected to the place that helped them acquire cognitive and educational skills that enabled them to excel.”

Sahar Mahmoud
Coordinator of the Rawdat Abdulraheem

The foundation praised the Abdel Rahim Scientific Kindergarten for “creating a reading boom and achieving cognitive sustainability, thanks to the available books and educational workshops”.

‘A Great Boost’

According to Sahar Mahmoud, the coordinator of the school, the competition organisers “did not grant the kindergarten any money”. Instead they asked its administrators “sign a partnership protocol with the Egypt Dubai Scientific Research Foundation for a renewable period of one year, to deserve the title,” she told Al-Fanar Media.

Mahmoud, a graduate of Cairo University who works as a librarian, said the kindergarten set out to make books available to young people and children. Later its role expanded to holding workshops in drawing and music, and organising educational seminars and public lectures given by academics, intellectuals and writers for the people of the province.

In addition to Mahmoud, three volunteer teachers work in the kindergarten, while Sheikh Mohamed Abdel Qadir covers all operating expenses. “Winning the National Reading Project Award gave the work team a great boost”, Mahmoud said.

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The library is run by Saber Hussein, the owner of the Azbekiyat Deshna, who joined the team three years ago.

Hussein, who specializes in children’s literature and has published several books, said the Abdel Rahim Scientific Kindergarten aroused his interest because of its success in educating children in a region “which suffers from various forms of cultural deprivation.”

He told Al-Fanar Media that “parents interacted with the experience, which provided them with books for free, and helped them acquire reading skills.”

‘A Model Worthy of Praise’

Saber Hussein sells books through Azbekiyat Deshna at low prices and makes others available for free as part of his volunteer work in the kindergarten. He also organizes writing workshops for children to teach them “how to write stories based on imagination,” he said.

Sheikh Mohamed Abdel Qadir established Rawdat Abdulraheem “as a continuous act of charity for the soul of his son, in a unique connection between cultural and charitable work.”

Fathi Abdel Samie
An Egyptian poet

Saber said he hoped that different cultural experiences would combine to ensure the continuity of the kindergarten. For her part, Sahar Mahmoud hopes to train young cadres to manage the kindergarten in a professional manner that ensures the sustainability of the project.

“After eight years of work, we have many students who have enrolled in distinguished colleges in universities, and who are still connected to the place that helped them acquire cognitive and educational skills that enabled them to excel,” she said.

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The poet Fathi Abdel Samie, winner of the 2016 State Incentive Award in Social Studies, described the Abdel Rahim Scientific Kindergarten as “a model worthy of support”.

Sheikh Mohamed “is not a wealthy businessman,” he said. Instead, “he preferred to establish a cultural institution as a continuous act of charity, for the soul of his son, in a unique connection between cultural and charitable work.”

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By: Sayyid Mahmoud

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