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glass of tea...

Christine Sedky's picture

I have come to really enjoy the rituals that I have developed working here. To say the very least, working with poor artisans in Egypt is the polar opposite environment from working in corporate America. Day-to-day interactions include lots of tea, no emails, no credit cards and the satisfaction of being surrounded by people who work with their hands and produce beautiful items. Don’t get me wrong, people in Egypt with more corporate jobs might as well be in NYC, LA, DC or London. Their days are filled with meetings, conference calls, emails, etc…but their offices usually have a view of the Nile. ;)

I now drink a minimum of about 5 cups of tea ‘shay’ a day. I actually enjoy the cup of shay and the ½ hour before each meeting which usually involves questions about my marital status and my parents. I have also gotten numb to being looked at as if I have three heads. The question is evident on their faces: why would someone come to work with poor artisans out of choice? They don’t see what I see. They don’t see the beauty that is created out of very simple and poor lives, and they don’t see the potential for employment. I have also become accustomed to telling everyone from cab drivers, to distant relatives to the artisans themselves: yes I am Egyptian, yes I moved from the States, and yes I love it here! And ½ an hour later, yes I was born here, and yes BOTH of my parents are Egyptian. And no thanks, I don’t think I want to meet your nephew. ;) ;)


Submitted by Partiban Kunasekaran on
Dear Maria, I really like your article and it does make think really deep about free education. I am a true believer of free education for all and your friend Juan gives me a view from the other side of the perspective. Although I understand his view and the result from studies shows that people don't see the need to study, I beg to differ. I think we need to dig deeper to the reason why students not keen in studying. From my observation specifically in my native Malaysia; current development in technologies, culture and social interactions, improvement in education syllabus and teaching techniques is making a very slow progress. We need to make teaching fun and exciting and at the same time we need to make current education relevant for todays need. Let's talk about science education, in Malaysia young children from age 7 to 12 still learning subjects with 90% reading and only 10% of practical learning. Current life requires us to think more practical and hands-on. Kids in developed countries already able to organise self made robotic competitions and have annual science fair. This scenario is still very rare in developing nations. Teachers are also key factor in this issue, they need to be creative and forward looking; after-all teachers are the builders of tomorrow's leaders. Sufficient exposure need to be given to teachers and government should also invest in developing high quality teachers by allocating bigger budgets. A network need to be established between teachers around the globe so that they can collaborate and exchange ideas and teaching techniques. Teachers also need to be given liberty to explore innovations is teaching and education. Having said that, I still believe education need to be free but at the same time we need to make education fun and enjoyable. I am very sure at the very bottom of child's heart, he/she is in thirst for knowledge, and it's our responsibility to ensure quality education is delivered effectively and freely to quench their thirst. Regards, Partiban Kunasekaran Puchong, Malaysia .

Submitted by Maria on
Hi Partiban! Thank you so much for your comment. It's very interesting to consider your view too! there might be many reasons why children and youths don't want to study, and you're completely right: we need to consider the option that education is just too boring for them or it is perceived as not being connected with what they need. That's exactly part of Juan's idea (as I view it) because he says we really need to work on education's quality. Teachers, methodologies and learning environments all play a key role in education's quality. Thank you! I think we're moving forward to have a clearer idea of what strategies could be implemented in our countries to improve education levels and, of course, development.

It's always been a pet peeve of mine that so often, schooling makes students feel bored and trapped, rather than inspiring them, really teaching them, and nurturing their creativity. So I completely agree with Partiban that the solution is not to screen interested vs. uninterested students through fees, but to turn uninterested students into interested ones. However, I really see your point too Maria (and Juan!) that students in so many parts of the world (because this is not just a Colombian problem!) don't see any future rewards to education. Jobs are hard to come by, salaries are low, so why slave away in school when it can be so thankless? It seems to me there are two different arguments here: what steps should be taken to make students really interested in learning, to make sure that school brings out their inventive and creative sides, and makes them excited about getting an education? And then, what steps can be taken to make sure that opportunities exist for everyone beyond their education? I think both problems, while related in some ways, will have to be approached in different ways because they entail very different challenges.

Submitted by David E. G. Cetina on
When I was reading this article and posted responses, different thoughts came out, and I realize that the problem of good continuing education is social cohesion. The general and even basis of education systems must be reevaluated as the time comes by, and it

Submitted by Prakash Iyengar on
Hi Everyone, Its a very interesting topic you have brought up here and your views are really logical. One point i would like to bring up that even though it might be bad economics , no one should be denied education. I understand that a lot of people dont want to be educated but that does not mean that all of them should be denied the right to education. Case in point , in India legally primary education is " free and compulsory", i feel that this is important because a lot of children are denied this basic right because their parents aren't educated and as they are poor they are forced into child labour. Thus realistically looking the option is not between studying or soccer , but studying or working in hazardous industries. I would suggest making alternative education more popular rather than increasing the cost of education as a solution to this problem Thanks for starting the discussion. Prakash Iyengar AIESEC India.