On one fine sunny day, we visited this Syrian educational centre who’s trying their best to get recognised as a formal school. The school is funded and run under the sponsor of Fard Foundation and an Egyptian businessman. In early days, the idea of the school was to revise the studying interest in drop-out Syrian students and then help them to catch up with the knowledge which they “should have known” at their age. However, time passes by and the centre wishes to do more than just that, they want to become a formal Primary and Secondary school dedicated to Syrian students. The reason behind this was that according to what they have heard from the parents and the students themselves, there are so many problems occur when a Syrian student comes to an Egyptian school. Fard Foundation also carried out a survey a few years ago about education for the Syrian students, and the drop-out rate is unexpectedly more than half of them drop out from schools. Some of the issues have been stated out by the principle of the school during our conversation.
The first and maybe the most important reason, was the difference between Egyptian Arabic and Syrian Arabic, which causes troubles in understanding and speaking. I have a Moroccan friend whose mother tongue is also Arabic, but Moroccan Arabic, and not less than a hundred of times she had to pay 100% of her attention to absorb what an Egyptian says, and sometimes she didn’t even get that and wasn’t able to translate what was written on a notice board, and she’s 24. So imagine how difficult it would be for 8-15 year-old Syrian students to fully understand lectures given by Egyptian teachers, and more challenges to come when the education system is by no means similar to what they receive in Syria schools. According to the principle of the school, the education system in Syria was one of the best in the Middle East, where their students get full opportunities to develop in all aspects, not just in basic educational theories, and they get respect from teachers and friends. Yet in Egyptian schools, the education based too much on theories while practical training is nearly zero chances, and the teachers are legally allowed to punish student using violent. This though also the problem for the Egyptian students as well, the fact is that the educational centre has heard some cases when punishment were made due to discrimination between Syrian students and Egyptian students. This has not frequently been reported, yet the principle herself sees that it still can be an arising threat to Syrian students studying in Egyptian schools, which add up to the reasons why they drop out from schools.
The second most common reason is that some of the drop-out students have been encountering social psychological problems. The principle told us, they have seen their parents got killed from the war, or witnessed them being beaten up, or worse, got themselves beaten up. Consequently, their mental status is terribly affected, however, it’s not the responsibility of the Egyptian schools to care since they’re having too many students in one class, from 50-70 students and one or two problems just simply cannot be handled. These students need great deals of help from the society, yet they have received little. The school itself has special free mental service which also Syrian doctors and therapists, this would likely to make the traumatised students feel more comfortable talking to, and better for the doctors to treat them since they’ve been through the war as the children’ve.
In addition, the principle also mentioned some other challenges that caused the students to give up on going to school. Tuition fee for foreign students in Egypt is higher, double the price, so the families who ran away without any money cannot afford full education for their children. The education centre, however, has got the sponsor from the Foundation and the Egyptian Businessman, so they can be able to reduce the tuition fee, which is more affordable. A minor things which comes into the recruitment part is that most of the Egyptian schools are full, there aren’t much spaces for new students. In one class, there can be up to 70 students, an enormous number. Therefore, the family either has to fight to their kids studying place, or just give up since they cannot pay the fee or cannot get a place to study.