25 July 2013
Young men attend a shoemaking class at vocational training center in Minya, Egypt.
(photo: Sean Sprague)
Several years ago, we visited a vocational school in Upper Egypt that was giving hope and opportunity to the handicapped:
The Jesuit Center for the Handicapped is one of several projects in the region funded by CNEWA. The center is dedicated to youths who would otherwise have few opportunities for an independent life.
The center, originally for boys, was founded in 1983. Since 1992, girls have also been admitted. There are now 40 students at the center and admission is equally divided by gender.
Students are bused from surrounding areas and they room at the center from Monday to Thursday. By having a three-day weekend in their villages, respect is paid to both Muslims, who pray on Fridays, and Christians, who worship on Sundays.
Minya’s population is about 20 percent Christian and 80 percent Muslim. Osama Iseq, the center’s director, said there are tensions between the two religious communities, fueled largely by Islamic fundamentalists.
“At first we had problems with bringing the students to the center,” he said. “There was one village we could not even get to because of anti-Christian feelings, but now there is no problem. Here Muslims and Christians get along. That students are eating, studying, living and working together is better than any discussion...
...The center’s two-year course provides vocational training in the morning and literacy and simple mathematics classes in the afternoon. When students are finished with the course, they read, write, do basic arithmetic and are prepared for an independent life with practical job skills.
But while the vocational school is relatively new, the Jesuits have a long history of being educators in Minya. On the same campus as the Center for the Handicapped is a primary and preparatory school founded in 1889. The Jesuit Fathers school also receives scholarship grants from CNEWA.
The 800-pupil school is run by five Jesuit priests and one brother, two of whom are Egyptians, two are Maltese, one is French and the other is Dutch. Also on staff are a number of Christian and Muslim teachers.
Jesuit Father Joseph Mizi, the school’s director, said the school is one of the best in the district even though it primarily serves the poorer children of the area.
Read more about efforts to take young people From Dusty to Dignity in the November 2002 issue of the magazine.