Christine Patton- A Note
30 May, 2008
Over the past several years, I have visited a growing number of Springboard’s One Room Schools and I have found that some things are consistent with every other visit – there is always a warm welcome from the teachers and the students, who are proud of their school and their accomplishments, whether the school is one day old or long-established. The teachers stand and point out the work that has been done, calling on the girls who sit quietly at their places, brighteyed and attentive. The walls are covered with examples of the artwork of the students, with alphabets and animal cutouts, sometimes with photographs of the students or other visitors. The blackboard has a message written on it to greet the visitors and make them welcome.
Often there are curious observers outside, looking in the wide windows, sometimes the Elders of the village who watch over the school, perhaps the donor of the land that the school sits on, or a parent of one or more of the students – perhaps all of these. There are usually a group of boys outside, who watch intently and who seem to want to be on the inside. But every school is unique, and so every visit is different. When I visited the Hanna Habib School, in Youssef El Seddiq in Fayoum, I visited a school that I had seen on its first day, two years before, and now it was going into its third year – what a difference! Again, some things had not changed – very importantly, almost all of the girls were those who had started three terms before – the retention rate was very high.
The teachers were the same as well; -- Hoda Fathy and Soad Shabaan were familiar, friendly faces for me. The familiar one-room design was cool and airy, the tables and chairs in the grouping for the four work areas, everything impeccably tidy and clean. It was the atmosphere in the school itself – there was warmth and a sense of confidence that came from each of the students as they shook hands with me and greeted me, some in English. We discussed the achievements of the past two years, and the objectives that they had targeted were striking – Teamwork, Cooperation, manners, in addition to reading, mathematics and handicrafts. It was clear to me that these girls, guided by their teachers, were gaining a strong sense of their individual potentials, and their capabilities as a group. The self esteem and delight in the benefits of work done well was palpable, and the girls were able to share with their visitors that day the sense that learning was now an activity that they pursued with passion. I was overwhelmed by the rapid progress that they had made, and resolved to work harder myself to find ways to give these girls, and the thousands like them in other schools, more opportunity to grow.