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Rising Voices: Raising Yusriya
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Rising Voices: Raising Yusriya
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In Egypt, traditional gender roles mean many women grow up without access to education. But change is coming. Small schools, established with the help of UNICEF, are opening their doors to both sexes, and young girls like Yusriya are grasping the opportunity to learn with both hands.
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Produced by UNICEF and the Public Affairs Media Group.

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Segment 1

TITLE
Rising Voices
TITLE
Raising Yusriya
VOICEOVER
In Abu Teeg, life hasn't changed much over time. People live as they have for generations and according to the same customs. It's still common practice here for women to ask permission to leave their houses, and forbidden for women to own land. Nearly all women over the age of 15 are uneducated and spend their days at home. But change is arriving. Small schools are opening their doors, and Abu Teeg's younger girls are flocking to them. Yusriya Al Fikrey is one of them.
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
I stand in line in the morning, and then prepare the corner I like. I work with my schoolmates.
VOICEOVER
This is Al Soulieman School, a one-room school experiment, designed with the objective of getting girls like Yusriya integrated into schools.
MALAK ZAALOUK [UNICEF Educational Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa]
The whole idea was basically to reach the hard to reach initially, and it was focused on girls.
TITLE
Abu Teeg, Egypt.
MALAK ZAALOUK
It was really to go to those places that were mostly forgotten, where there were lots of children who were out of school, particularly girls, and find strategies that could actually bring them into school. It was going to be a seven-star school for the poor, and this required a great deal of training, a lot of mentoring, a lot of coaching, and presence, being there, really making the transformation with them.
TITLE
Yusriya's footage
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
I was sad because I didn't go to school. I saw my neighbors going to school, and I was sad, and I would cry sometimes. I just felt so bad about not being to read the advertisements, signs in the street, or anything in the newspapers or magazines, or even my name. I couldn't read my name. The school was too far away, so that only a few girls could go to school. My father was against me going to school, but he finally agreed. My sisters, Sakha and Mona, convinced him to let me go to school.
SAKHA FIKREY MUHAMMAD [Yusriya's sister]
My parents didn't send us, their girls, to school because our education was not considered a priority. But, when these community schools started, they agreed to send Yusriya to be educated.
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
If I wake up late, my mother prepares breakfast. If I wake up early, I prepare breakfast before going to school. Azza, Rasha, Waf'aa are my friends. The first day I met Rasha and Azza; we were taking the entry exam to school, and we decided to go home together.
NAGUA IBRAHIM EL-SAID [Yusriya's Teacher, Al Soulieman]
Yusriya, Azza, Rasha, and Waf'aa always want to know what we are doing. They love school so much. They even come to summer school for a few days a week. I am Nagua Ibrahim El-Said. I am a facilitator at Al Soulieman and Abu Teeg community schools. I am their facilitator, since they were in their first grade. I have 16 girls and 12 boys. Then there was only one class donated by the landowner here, but two years later he donated another building for a school. So, he gave the first class and then two more. She's a very hard-working student. When she first joined the school, she didn't know how to read well, but she liked to learn. So, it took me time to get her to the level at which I wanted her to be. She would come up with ideas, and I would provide her with materials. She comes to me saying, "Ms. Nagua, I want to do research, please help me, give me an idea." I gave her an idea and the material she needs. Her classmates also participated with her.
AZZA [Yusriya's friend]
This project is about the bird flu.
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
We gathered the information from different magazines. The sources of information are from "awareness bulletins" by the Ministry of Health and articles from newspapers.
AZZA
What are the direct causes of infection of the bird flu? One way is by direct contact with the infected birds, because it hasn't been proven until now that this flu can be transmitted from humans to humans.
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
We wanted to teach the community how to prevent the disease, so the disease won't spread around here.
NAGUA IBRAHIM EL-SAID
She is not satisfied with what she has learned. She needs more. This is Yusriya.
REDA ALLAM ED DIN [Field Specialist, Assuit Business Women's Association NGO]
Our initial way of convincing the community was to start with mothers in small groups in which we would discuss examples illustrating the difference between educated and uneducated girls. I am Reda Allam El Din. I'm a field specialist. We would search for a role model in the village, like a university professor, and show how this person reached this position through education. We started to bring the people together and utilize individuals of influence and authority within the community, regardless of their education level so long as they could positively influence the locals. Rather than going alone, these people would accompany me as I traveled to other places. As more people joined me, the idea's acceptance grew.
JAKENAZ GEORGE SULTAN [Yusriya's teacher]
My name is Jakenaz George Sultan. I have been here for a year with the children since they were in third grade. At the beginning of the school day, we have a line, the assembly, and some exercise. Then we go to our classroom and start preparing the children for the school day. Being a teacher at the community school differs from being in a government school. If Ms. Nagua or I am absent, the children do not learn anything. There is a clear difference as these community schools adopt active learning. The children are not given the information, but they seek it and discover it themselves, because easy come, easy go. When they seek and discover information themselves, they will learn a lot. We are here as facilitators, not teachers. We give them a break to go to the WC and have a snack. We try to get them engaged in playing to give them a chance to have fun and be re-energized to get through the rest of the day. During sports activity, we are not facilitators, but we all share in their activities. They feel that we are not facilitators or sisters but friends. We play with them, and both of us feel so happy. We have educational tools, and we turn subjects into games so that information becomes kind of a game that the children like to play and through which the children can learn.
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
We have games and education at the same time. At the art corner, I learned how to make a microphone. I brought a piece of wood. I decorated it and fixed it with Scotch tape and brought a ball and attached it to the piece of wood, and I covered it with the colored paper to make the microphone. I like to express myself to my classmates in order to show what I want.
JAKENAZ GEORGE SULTAN
We try to make the children rely on themselves.
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
I learn how to express my opinion, practice my hobbies, and how to read and write, and to rely on myself, and to be honest, and not to say no at all, but not for everything.
NAGUA IBRAHIM EL-SAID
Even her ideas are not limited to the school. She takes them to her family, and to her community.
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
At the end of the school day, the teachers leave the school, then we leave.
WAF'AA [Yusriya's friend]
We liked that, when we played, especially when the teachers played with us.
GAMALAT FIKREY [Yusriya's mother]
I have been married for 35 years. I have four boys and seven girls. The oldest is 30 years old, and the youngest is eight years old. Yusriya has changed a lot in terms of her skills and intelligence. She got educated, and she teaches her sisters who didn't go to school. This is a huge difference between her, as she went to school, and her brothers and sisters who didn't. Huge difference. There is a difference between me and her, as she went to school, and she is a good student.
SAKHA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
We went to literacy classes for three years where we learned reading and writing. Yusriya helps us to continue.
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
I help them when they ask me, and I teach Warda. I'm teaching my sister words. I was teaching her the letter "dhaal," with the different short vowels and words starting with that letter, like "circle," "bear."
SAKHA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
I would like to continue until I can read and write like her. I have always wanted to learn like her, and now she is giving me this opportunity, but I feel a little strange about it because she went to school and I didn't. If I had gone to school, I would have been like her. That's why I feel strange. Of course, the education she has will make a difference. At the least, this education will help her to deal with people and to go wherever she wants, not like us. With her certificate, she can have a job and will not be asked where is she going. And there will not be any restrictions on her.
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
Now, I know how lucky I am because I experienced both, not attending and now going to school.
MUHAMMAD FIKREY ALI [Yusriya's father]
I am 61 years old. I have seven girls and four boys. I am not worried about her because it's safe, and I'll spend on her education because her school fees are affordable, thanks to you [UNICEF]. Clothes are also inexpensive, and God will help. And, when she is ready to go to university, God will help me. She will have a better life, living in a cleaner place, wearing cleaner clothes, not like me, a poor farmer. I'm someone who likes cleanliness and respect.
VOICEOVER
Abu Teeg is a community centered on family. Coming by a living is hard work; the average income is USD$552 per year. For the most part, they are tenant farmers like Muhammad Al Fikrey, taking care of property and animals for the wealthier, absentee landowners. Muhammad's sister lives next door with her five children. Uncles and other cousins drop in anytime. Together, they scrape by. They are the lifeblood of the community. This is who will be responsible for the school, along with the Ministry of Education facilitators and supervisors, as UNICEF transitions away from daily operations after 17 years of direct support. It now means that the community schools will be mainstreamed into the national educational system, a prospect that leaves some in the community nervous. Erma Manoncourt is the UNICEF representative to Egypt.
ERMA MANONCOURT [UNICEF Representative, UNICEF]
At times, there's a perception that the government won't do what they're supposed to do. What we've tried to say to them is, "We're not going away. What we're just telling you is the day-to-day management is not going to come from UNICEF. We will be with you to help monitor that the quality remains the same. We will be with you to help ensure that things are going the way they need to go. And we will be working with our government counterparts to help them strengthen and do the kinds of things that need to be done." And I think we need to show where we've been able to do it in some villages for other villages to see that happening, to take people from one village to go visit community schools in another area that they haven't seen before. We're not saying it's easy. All of us have to work together, and let's go talk to people who have done it.
MALAK ZAALOUK
We need to be there every step of the way, set the standards, continue to motivate. Transformation requires that we accompany people and continue to motivate.
CREAM WRIGHT [Former Associate Director, Programmes, and Global Chief of Education, UNICEF]
We try to convince countries, communities, that child-friendly school is not so much a destination at which you arrive and you can say, "I've done these 12 things, and now my school is child-friendly." Child-friendly school is more like a path along which you travel, and all the time you're seeing new things to do, new things to improve on, and so it's a continuous process. It never ends. It's a smart investment, not only in getting children to learn, but getting children to grow up healthy, confident, and fulfilled human beings.
YUSRIYA FIKREY MUHAMMAD
Education enlightens life and allows me to know more things. Before joining school, I couldn't read. I saw those going to school and would get sad. I don't want to remember those days because they make me sad, and now I thank God because I am educated. I can read and write, and I know everything. I know a lot of information how to differentiate between right and wrong, and to make my teachers, father, mother, and siblings happy. Education is good, and everyone should be educated because life without education is nothing. It is just a life without meaning. Now I am educated, and I know that I enlightened my life, for example. After two years at this school, I will finish, and I will have another three years before finishing school, and God willing, after 10 years I will join the university. I will be a doctor.
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[end credits]