Learning is a light that illuminates both the future and human life. To this end, the city of Giza has taken on the responsibility of educating its citizens and eliminating illiteracy. Just as the body lives on food and air, the mind lives on science and knowledge. In addition, Giza has devoted all of its resources to ensuring that learning reaches all citizens (children, women and young people) because they represent the wheels of progress on which our society depends.
Manal Awad, Deputy Governor of Giza for Community Service and Environmental Affairs
Building a learning city
Home to more than 7 million people, the Giza Governorate considers learning to be not only a tool to improve literacy skills for all, but also a way to increase the welfare of society while encouraging citizens to share experience and knowledge among themselves.
Giza, the capital of the governorate, is the first learning city in Egypt. Its main priority, as a learning city, is to reduce school drop-outs to a minimum level and to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic background, are able to read and write. To achieve this, in 2016 Giza intensified its campaign to improve people’s literacy skills. The governorate provides disadvantaged families with financial support and promotes learning for adults. Adult learners who attend classes and obtain a literacy certificate are rewarded with free healthcare and further education. University students and teachers have been strongly encouraged to help other citizens obtain literacy certificates. This not only helps increase literacy in the region, but also consolidates links within the community by supporting the mutual exchange of experiences. As a result of Giza’s strong commitment to increasing literacy levels, the governorate has established preparatory classes for adults so that they can realize their learning ambitions.
To complement its activities focusing on literacy, Giza has launched several campaigns to increase women’s awareness of health issues and to empower them. Campaigns directed at women also reach the family and the community as a whole. Giza has been working successfully with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), not-for-profits and religious organizations to promote learning to its citizens, in urban as well as remote rural areas.
The initiatives launched in Giza to foster community learning have provided citizens with more tools to strengthen their commitment to building the society of the future.
Since the 2011 revolution, the serious instability of Egypt's political system has had an impact on the country’s development, social structures and economy. Continuous change has had a negative effect on education and learning policies. Illiteracy mars the daily lives of a quarter of Egypt’s population aged 15 and over. This is especially true for women, whose literacy rate is 67 per cent compared to 83 per cent for men. Transforming Giza into a learning city therefore tackles multiple challenges relating to social cohesion and economic development.
Located on the west bank of the Nile River, the Giza Governorate boasts a rich history and culture. Almost 60 per cent of Giza’s population resides in urban areas, although some inhabitants live in secluded villages. Giza has developed a comprehensive strategy to offer all of its inhabitants the best chance of improving their reading and writing skills. First, to boost literacy class attendance rates among young people, it provides poor families with material support and has implemented a number of campaigns promoting the benefits of education, which target families and communities. Second, it gives individuals of all ages the opportunity to attend literacy classes, offering incentives such as free healthcare or education to all those who obtain a literacy certificate. Additional courses are open to those who have obtained basic literacy skills, to enable them to improve their skills further. Finally, Giza provides community classes in remote villages to increase access to learning opportunities.
In line with the 2014 constitution, women represent a major target group within Giza’s learning strategy. Non-formal courses and workshops specifically for women are designed to raise their awareness of health issues and transform them into community health advocates.
Teachers and educators, meanwhile, are given the best tools with which to spread knowledge among the population, and receive regular workshops throughout their initial training and subsequent career.
- Developing a plan
Giza’s primary objective is to increase citizens’ literacy skills across the board. Its powerful commitment to this goal has underpinned the governorate’s considerable successes to date, and created a need for additional preparatory classes for those who have completed basic literacy classes and wish to improve their skills further. Giza has committed to achieving a 100 per cent literacy rate among its population in the coming years. In particular, it has been increasing its efforts to provide specially adapted literacy classes for disabled people. In rural areas, events have been held to celebrate women’s successful completion of literacy classes, thereby creating a strong sense of community while promoting the benefits of learning. To increase the well-being of poor families and healthy behaviours across the governorate as a whole, Giza has, moreover, been providing women with health-related skills courses and workshops.
In the long term, Giza is determined to expand its learning initiatives to benefit all of its inhabitants. By training a generation of young people as teachers and by promoting the importance of acquiring knowledge, the city is striving to increase its commitment to the development of a flourishing learning environment. Vocational training courses are being developed to increase individuals’ skills and employability, and to benefit the economy. In addition to ensuring the acquisition of proficient literacy skills, Giza sees learning as a means of fostering critical thinking across communities and empowering its citizens.
- Creating a coordinated structure involving all stakeholders
The Giza Governorate and its departments and agencies work across sectors to build a learning city. Its projects are overseen by the Governor and Deputy Governor for Community Service and Environmental Affairs; a service comprising the Directorate of Education, the Adult Education Authority and the Educational Buildings Authority. In Egypt, each of the 27 governorates has its own directorate of education. Besides being in charge of practical school matters, Giza’s Directorate of Education is involved in local campaigns to promote schooling and the benefits of literacy. All of the bodies working in the area of Community Service and Environmental Affairs collaborate closely to ensure that all target groups, including children, women and poor families, are included in the process of building a learning city.
A number of projects promoting education and learning are joint initiatives with government bodies other than the Ministry of Education, such as the National Council of Women or the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The Takaful wa Karama project, which supports children’s school attendance, for example, was launched by the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity.
Giza Governorate bodies also work in close cooperation with NGOs. These organizations include UNICEF (collaborating on the community schools initiative launched in 1992 to establish schools in secluded areas of the governorate); Caritas; and the Vodafone Egypt Foundation (partnering the governorate on the Vodafone Literacy Initiative launched in cooperation with UNESCO and 20 other organizations). In addition, religious organizations, such as Al-Azhar and the Coptic Evangelical Organization, currently play a major role at local level in promoting the importance of education.
- Mobilizing and utilizing resources
In cooperation with non-governmental organizations and associations, Giza has expanded learning opportunities in urban and rural areas. Working with the governorate, a number of private associations agreed to allow their headquarters to be used as venues for learning activities targeting adults. Through these associations’ links with marginalized or underprivileged families, the governorate was able both to reach the most vulnerable and to make more efficient use of existing resources. In order to make learning more accessible to the inhabitants of secluded areas in the region, Giza worked hand-in-hand with NGOs to establish community classes. These classes take place in community centres, and represent a flexible means of increasing citizens’ access to knowledge. With support from the World Food Programme, Giza promotes school attendance in remote areas by providing meals for students and their families. It has also opened a new public library, whose aim is twofold: to serve as a learning space for individuals of all ages; and to continue to build on the reading skills that learners have acquired to date.
- Making learning accessible to all
Many initiatives in Giza offer learning opportunities for deprived or marginalized groups. These include community-based classes in remote villages, provided with the support of NGOs, and non-formal learning classes hosted in the headquarters of various private associations to ensure access to education for all inhabitants.
The Giza Governorate stepped up its efforts in 2015 with the launch of Giza’s far-reaching literacy initiative, implementing a range of mechanisms designed to achieve the governorate’s target literacy rate of 100 per cent. Citizens who take literacy classes and receive literacy certificates are awarded free healthcare and further education. To support the initiative, Giza worked with universities to implement a programme encouraging university students to take part in efforts to reduce illiteracy. Students volunteering to help other community members acquire reading and writing skills are compensated for their contribution: for example, once students have assisted a minimum of five people, they receive a financial incentive or free training course. Compensatory packages of this kind foster participation in community learning, as well as intergenerational exchange.
Additionally, the Giza Governorate and the Social Fund for Development have agreed to award the sum of one million Egyptian pounds (US $55,585) to associations or NGOs that establish 50 literacy classes serving 20 students per class. To date, nine associations have received the grant.
Giza is, moreover, one of the first regions to implement the national Takaful Wa Karama project. It provides 98,500 families in 29 villages with a monthly stipend, on condition that their children’s school attendance rate is at least 80 per cent. In light of its success, the governorate plans to extend the project further.
- Organizing celebratory events
Giza organizes several campaigns and events targeting teachers and healthcare workers to boost their awareness of issues linked to illiteracy. These campaigns are supported by conferences and roundtables held at the University of Cairo. Citizens are invited to attend events in order to make the process of building a learning city a participatory one.
The Giza Governorate also oversees a number of events, including a celebration to mark an increase in literacy skills among rural women, organized in cooperation with local communities, and NGOs. The event was sponsored by the Women’s Association and the Social Fund for Development in Giza, with funding from the European Union and the World Bank. It serves two purposes: to create a sense of community and belonging centred on education; and to establish female role models within Giza’s rural community, with the aim of promoting access to education for women.
- Monitoring and evaluation
The Giza Governorate has formed a committee of experts that works with the relevant authorities to track the progress of efforts to establish a system of continuous education in the governorate. The committee is in charge of establishing mechanisms to document the learning process, collect information and determine where citizens’ interests lie. Residents’ learning needs are recorded in order to increase the impact of the governorate’s initiatives and achieve the city’s ambitious targets in the most efficient way.
Furthermore, the committee prepares regular reports highlighting the lessons learned during the implementation of each learning project/strategy. After these results have been thoroughly analysed, the committee proposes improvements. By evaluating data in this way – and by factoring in the views of the stakeholders involved – the committee is responsible for developing collective strategies and keeping stakeholders informed in order to improve the way in which projects and strategies are coordinated.
To complement the work of the experts' committee, the Giza Directorate of Education has implemented an integrated strategic plan. The plan aims to enhance learning quality, and it includes a number of programmes that are closely monitored by the Directorate of Education: a School Reform Programme; an operational plan for technological development (currently in development); and an implementation plan to reform the various stages of education.
- Achievements and the way forward
With a deep-seated commitment to literacy that has resulted in an increase in the number and quality of essential skills acquired by its citizens, Giza has paved the way for an abundance of thriving learning communities. Individuals who complete literacy classes are now able to persevere with their studies and acquire a broader set of skills. The ability to read and write already offers them substantial benefits in their daily lives. Moreover, they have far more confidence in their own ability to gain more knowledge. With initiatives encouraging university students and teachers to support disadvantaged individuals or families, Giza’s learning strategy has enabled societal links to be established, thereby fostering mutual understanding. Intergenerational exchanges concerning learning experiences and knowledge, meanwhile, have further strengthened community ties.
Learning has equally affected the behaviours of individuals towards the environment. It has promoted a sounder use of resources in the city and stimulated awareness of sustainable development. In the long-term, the powerful and diverse impact that learning has on society as a whole, boosting economic growth in the region and stimulating the creation of small businesses, will also encourage entrepreneurs to create green businesses and thereby contribute to regional sustainability.
Deputy Governor, Giza Governorate