(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 156-157, Note the Copyright!)
Egypt, land of the Nile with its pyramids and desert expanses, became one of the first Christianized countries in the world and then, after the Arabian conquest, a unique concourse of Islamic scholarship and magnificent buildings.
Biodynamic agriculture has been going on in Egypt since 1977 on the Sekem Farm founded by Dr Ibrahim Abouleish. The farm formed the foundation on which social and cultural activities could gradually be set up in addition to the work of processing its produce. A Waldorf Kindergarten was founded in 1986 and a Waldorf School in 1989. The challenge facing Dr Abouleish and the teachers in the school was how to integrate the social, political, cultural and religious aspects with the Waldorf curriculum so as to form a starting point for a new educational enterprise.
The Sekem School is recognized as a private school by the Egyptian Ministry for Education. Parents and teachers had made this recognition a basic requirement for their own acceptance, and it was thanks to good contacts with the education authorities and the Ministry for Education that the recognition was granted. As a private school, Sekem receives no subsidies from the public purse. About 50% of running costs are covered by contributions from parents with the remainder being financed by the Society for Cultural Development (SCD) which is the umbrella organization of all the social and cultural establishments in the Sekem Initiative. School fees for Classes 1-5 are Euro 174 and for Classes 6-8 Euro 189 per annum. The SCD also runs a social fund to enable children to attend the school even if their parents cannot pay any contributions.
A festival every week
The Sekem School’s educational programme runs from the kindergarten via lower, middle and upper school right up to university entrance. Lessons are taught in Arabic, with English and German as foreign languages. Being recognized by the state means that according to the law of the land the teaching must follow Egypt’s official curriculum. Additional subjects such as painting, form drawing, music, handwork, gardening etc. supplement the curriculum and are firmly integrated within the school’s programme. The Thursday festival at the end of each week gives the pupils an opportunity to show the whole school community something of what they have learnt.
Intensive further training for the teachers
Further training for the teachers forms a point of emphasis in the educational work. Most of them have had several years of experience teaching at state schools before they come to Sekem where they are given a thorough grounding in Waldorf Education at further training sessions three times a week. They learn the methods which show them how education is a task that helps and promotes children in their development. In addition there is a daily programme of artistic activity, and trained teachers from Europe give guidance after sitting in on lessons. During the year, though mainly in the summer months, there is a programme of block courses in artistic subjects, Goethean science and the study of the human being given by experienced teachers, artists and scientists from Europe. It is hoped that the teacher training will become an academy within the education faculty at the University of Heliopolis.
Waldorf Education and Islam
Islam as a religion is an integral part of the Sekem School. It governs the daily, weekly and annual rhythms of life in the school where the festivals of both Islam and Christianity are celebrated. The special meaning of each festival is given expression in the way the festival is arranged and the type of songs that are sung.
Sekem is a successful school
Since its inception the Sekem School has cultivated close and fruitful contacts with the authorities. Those responsible accompany the work by means of regular visits. In recent years the exam results have been very good when compared with the national average, so this also shows how successful the work is. In fact Sekem has been invited to participate in important committees of the Ministry for Education. In this way the form of the school and its lessons can serve as examples for other schools to follow.
Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish
Establishment of the Sekem Initiative for Biodynamic Agriculture and of the Egyptian Society for Cultural Development since 1977.