Category Archives: Issues:Education

Coptic Orphans Welcomes Dr. Neveen Waheeb

waheeb profile
Dr. Neveen Waheeb’s expertise will enrich Coptic Orphans’ work with the children.

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Neveen Waheeb joined Coptic Orphans in August. Dr. Waheeb’s expertise in educational psychology adds depth to our team. In her new post, she will be in charge of capacity-building for our already strong field staff.

Dr. Waheeb’s vast experience in researching and working with Egypt’s vulnerable children is particularly relevant to Coptic Orphans’ work. Her specialized training in parent-child counseling will strengthen our capacity to train our staff and more than 450 Church-based volunteers in effective interventions at the family level. She also brings to the table valuable knowledge of how to deal with child abuse, and a research-based understanding of the effects of violence on children.

Dr. Waheeb’s past experience spans an important cross-section of Egypt’s non-profit community, including the St. Markarious Foundation, St. Augustine Educational, and the Alliance of Arab Women. Her arrival at Coptic Orphans widens the ever-growing circle of non-governmental organizations with whom we have connections.

We’re very proud to welcome Dr. Waheeb to the Coptic Orphans Program Department. Her Ph.D. in the psychology of education is directly relevant to Coptic Orphans’ mission to empower children to break the cycle of poverty through education.

We look forward to Dr. Waheeb’s expertise enriching our work with the children, enabling us to strengthen programs and better train staff and volunteers to connect with and serve vulnerable children.

Great News from Egypt This Mother’s Day

150508_Mothers Day FB
Love, healthcare, better education… these are things we all pray for for our families on Mother’s Day.

Good news about Egypt is precious these days, so I wanted to share a few wonderful developments that give me a feeling of hope.  

I came across the following news this morning in Save the Children’s new State of the World’s Mothers report, and I thought,  “What a perfect Mother’s Day gift for someone who loves Egypt as much as I do!”

To make a long story short, Egypt still has a long way to go to improve healthcare. But if you’re a mother or child in an urban area, there is extremely good news. The report reveals (emphasis added):

Egypt has made good child survival gains among its most affluent urban residents (47 percent reduction in under-5 mortality between 1995 and 2008) but even better gains for the poorest (66 percent reduction over the same time period). As a result, the poorest urban children in Egypt have gone from being 3.7 times as likely to die before their fifth birthday (in 1995) as the urban best-off to 2.4 times as likely to die (in 2008).

The report (the section on Egypt is a good read — I recommend it) also describes successes in immunizations, family planning, and clean water.

What’s most interesting about this news is that it points to Egypt’s potential to solve problems. For some people, it’s fashionable to talk about Egypt as hopeless. Well, this kind of progress shows that it’s not.

So how did this progress come about? The report asks that question:

How did Cairo achieve success? The city’s remarkable progress is the result of national health system reforms, specialized programs and the persistent efforts of civil society organizations.

I want to bite on that last bit again. Not only does Egypt’s health ministry deserve some long-overdue respect, but some of the thanks for this progress are also due to non-governmental organizations. Partnership!

As you know, here at Coptic Orphans, we see everything through the lens of using education to break the cycle of poverty. So this report has big implications.

We all know the bad news about Egypt’s schools — overcrowded, underfunded, in decay. But we have to stop thinking of education in Egypt as being in unstoppable decline, and start thinking big.

Solutions are out there. If they’re anything like the ones for healthcare, it will take smart and strategic partnerships between Egypt’s government and civil society. Not to speak of the force behind all transformations — God — and our willingness to let Him guide our work.

This is something Coptic Orphans has given a lot of thought to. With your support, we’ve accumulated decades of experience in supporting kids, both in and out of the classroom. Where lessons can be learned from our experience, we’re ready to step up. The gains that we make will be for the kids, and the benefits will  reach the mothers.

On future Mother’s Days, if we want good news like this for moms and children, we’re going to have to make it happen. It will take partnership, support, and good will from everyone in Egypt and the diaspora who wants to see progress. If it could be done for healthcare, let’s do it for education! 

Beaten to Death for Not Doing His Homework

No child should fear violence, much less death, while trying to learn.
No child should fear violence, much less death, while trying to learn. Coptic Orphans participants like this boy are treated with dignity.

Who was Islam Sharif, and what does his death mean for Coptic Orphans?

We know little about him, except that he died after a severe beating from his teacher. He was punished for not doing his homework. He passed away on Sunday in Cairo, at 12 years old, of a brain hemorrhage.

What does his death mean to Coptic Orphans?

First, we mourn the death of a unique human being, who was God’s creation. No child deserves to die in this way.

Second, we hear the crashing alarm bell set off by his death. It tells us to work harder to protect and educate the children in our programs.

His death particularly concerns us because education is central to everything we do, together with you, to support children’s transformation into well-rounded and self-sufficient adults. This process of transformation requires something different from the traditional charity approach of handing out money, which only creates dependency. Education, as many studies confirm, is the real key to breaking the cycle of poverty.

So when we are confronted by a school system in which a boy can be beaten to death by his teacher, what are we to do? Surrender?

In reality, I believe we’re morally bound to do three things. The first is to never give up. Our children are brave and smart, and we can’t leave them to fight alone, even when we hear this kind of grim news.

The second is to be a voice for a fair, safe, and effective school system. That means, in our talks with officials, that we present policy options and argue for education reform. And not only for reforms that would put Copts on better and fairer footing, but for changes that would benefit all Egyptians.

The third is to spread our model of advocacy and mentoring to as many children as possible. A child alone in the system is more vulnerable than a child with an advocate to lean on for support.

This is where our more than 400 Church-based volunteer “Reps” make a huge difference. They listen carefully to each widow and her children, provide them with access to resources such as tutoring, tuition, and school supplies, and intervene on the child’s behalf with school authorities when needed.

I can’t say for sure what would happen if a Coptic Orphans child was stuck with a teacher with violent tendencies, like the one who beat Islam Sharif to death. I can say with confidence that our mentoring teaches the child to have a sense of self-worth and to speak up. In Islam Sharif’s shoes, one of our kids might very well have talked to his Rep, who in turn would have demanded that school officials take action against the teacher.

This is the kind of protection we strive to provide to our kids. On a day of sad, sad, news for Islam Sharif’s family, and for all of Egypt, I pray that someday we’ll have schools where no child loses their life.