Merging Awareness and Education

By Neveen El-Gamal. Neveen, 38, lives in Giza, Egypt. She is a writer and a translator. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below. *Shortlisted for the NUHA Blogging Prize 2011*

“The illiterate are those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn,” Alvin Toffler

What is Education?

It is the process of learning information that helps us grow, develop, live safely and successfully in the world. And learning to learn because learning is an ever lasting life process.

Education requires qualified teachers who are RARE in the Middle East.

Education in Developing Countries:

Education in developing countries, specifically the Middle East, applies the exact opposite of the objectives of education. Instead of opening up children for learning, their minds are stuffed with mostly irrelevant information that blocks the mind from functioning naturally and blocks creativity and kills their natural curiosity. Adding that students are NOT ALLOWED to express what they think or what they feel. It is well known that the higher the grade of education, the less creative and less intelligent students become in the Middle East. The more they grow, the less they use their minds; and with time, they forget how to use their minds. Thinking and creativity are replaced by ready-made ideas and thoughts of others; not to mention, they’re not even good ones.

Students leave schools and Universities hating education although education is a natural means for humans to satisfy their nature of curiosity. What education actually does is shutting us off and filling us up with others’ stuff!

Why do we keep repeating mistakes throughout history since the beginning of humanity? Why are deep humane life lessons rarely shared? Why do we in developing countries after the school years are over need to fix/rebuild what education has ruined in us and seek what we have missed thoughout those years in four-walled prison educational institutes? About eighteen years of humans’ lives are spent in buildings where they miss parts of life that cannot be relived. Why for heaven’s sake would winters over 18 years be spent indoors in countries where winter is bliss!

Education teaches children how unacceptable they are because they are different while this uniqueness is why they are truly precious and is how knowledge is being created and supposedly shared.

Why would students in some schools spend most of their years separated: male students are separated from female students? Which grows an unnatural, unbalanced drive towards each sex as this draws their attention to the myth: ‘females and males should not mix’. And develops the question ‘why’ which leads to all sorts of complications. Some end up unable to communicate with the other sex and not knowing how they are like?

Why do some people start to realize what life is really about at the age of 50?

Education is absolutely MISLEADING!

Statements published in “Al Masry Al Youm”, a local newspaper in Egypt on September 17th 2011. Such wording never existed before this year’s revolution:

Dr. Kamal Mogheith, an educational expert, demands a free atmosphere in the educational process and declares:

“Education is distant from national affiliation and produces a generation of extremists.”

“Egyptian education is a bitter reality.”

“Low cost education caused a lot of cons yet I am not against it.”

“A committee of elite thinkers, intellectuals and scientists needs to reconsider the whole case of education in Egypt.”

Dr. Yosri Afifi, former Director of the Center for Curriculum Development declares:

“Government schools have become insults and students turned into customers.”

“Teachers’ social and economical problems reflect on their performances in classes.”

“I am against teaching syllabuses in the English language.”

“Foreign schools are crimes in the right of Egypt.”


In my personal experience, being a Taurus, not quite open or flexible for change, unlearning was a very difficult and painful experience.

Unlearning might be less painful and difficult for others but it is not a pleasant experience. And that is because learning usually comes from teachers; and teachers are seen as big figures; and big figures are BIG FIGURES! They represent AUTHORITY and at a young age, it is assumed that they cannot make mistakes and certainly cannot lie! Changing that is no doubt disturbing and will be resisted if not rejected. Whatever is passed through big figures to children gets rooted and is perceived as sacred. It is difficult and sometimes painful to uproot.

Why is unlearning critical and inevitable?

  1. To teach learners that no sacred, mistake-free teachers/people exist.
  2. To fix crimes committed by unqualified teachers.
  3. To fix dysfunctional syllabuses designed by the Ministry of Education.
  4. To assure the right of being and expression for students.
  5. To spread the awareness about the educational myths we’ve been living and believing on all levels from the Ministry of Education down to the students.


Learning starts from oneself:

Awareness! Self-awareness: who we are and how to deal with ourselves. And from self awareness grows the knowledge to deal with others and with life. I’m calling for a BALANCE. Human beings need to develop four aspects of their beings: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

When a human being deeply learns about himself, he starts to deeply learn about people and the world around him.  Starting from ourselves and expanding to the outside then as far as other countries and the Universe.

Students are teachers:

Maria Montessori’s research proved how children are vulnerable, how brilliant babies are since and before they are born and how it is vital respecting their beings by building educational systems that cope with their brilliance and not the other way around. Children are not only brilliant learners, they are also capable of teaching us on all levels: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Education should be dynamic. A teacher’s role should be mainly ‘a guide’. The students’ role should be allowed being a guide. They should be perceived as little teachers/guides.

Choice is educational:

When a human CHOOSES to do something, his performance is brilliant because it starts from inside him out, it is a part of him that is allowed to grow and develop. And that’s how naturally life develops from inside out and not the other way around.

Choice naturally contains taking responsibility of our choices.

Individuality to be considered in:

a)    Receiving education, taking in information.

b)    Different interests, contributing information.

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