Eihab Boraie meets the five inspirational women who have just flung open the doors of a innovative creative learning centre, to find out more about education, alternative approaches and inject art into Egyptian family culture.
How does one decide definitely what it is they want to do with their lives without the experience of learning new disciplines? How does one feel satisfied with life when their career path is not one they desire but rather chosen by their parents? How does one gain valuable understanding when the education system fails to acknowledge that each student learns differently? Looking to provide the answer to these questions is Cairo newest learning centre, SANE. Ahead of their amazing grand opening, we sat down with the founders to learn more about SANE’s out-of-the-box approach to education.
Through the historic arched Ghezireh House entrance in Zamalek lays Egypt’s newest creative educational hub SANE. Better know today as Emaret el Yemeni, this historic edifice is believed to be the Ghezireh’s first apartment building designed and built in 1908 for Swiss hotelier Charles Baehler. Captivated by its uniquely inspired architecture the founders at SANE were instantly taken by the location and quickly went to work transforming part of the building into their dream educational centre. Founded by Sherine El-Ashram, Nelly Serag, Nada Ghazy, Nancy Ghazy and Amina Goede, the five describe SANE’s vision to “build a society that is open minded, courageous and above all one that thinks outside the box. We aspire to be an idea hub. We want all members of our team to have a philosophy of fairness, collaboration, enjoyment, happiness, sufficiency and leadership.”
Coming from teaching backgrounds, and being long time friends, the founders passionately believed that they could make the learning process a lot more enjoyable by ditching traditional methods of text-heavy courses concerned with memorisation, for a hands-on approach that instills true understanding of the subject being taught. According to El-Ashram, “We’re not teaching by the books. We want it to be hands on, very interactive teaching experience that counters traditional methods. Each kid is different and so each one learns differently and this is what we will focus on.”
In order to fulfill this vision, SANE quickly started approaching a variety of experienced professionals in various fields not commonly found in Egypt. “A lot of our instructors came in for their interview and were like 'I really don’t care about the money or how expensive the course is,' - they just want to come and enjoy what they do with the students,” describes Goede. The educational backgrounds of the teachers hired vary from the self-taught to those who acquired a PhD in their fields. Take the example of Vranas Georgiadhis who teaches the fine art of oil painting. “He’s realist painter who is self-taught, and has been a painting ethnic people all over the world for 45 years and has his own art gallery in San Francisco. While at the same time we will have someone like Dr. Gamal Lamie, who used to be the head of the arts department at AUC, teaching a glass colouring course. Our classes are all price ranges. Each class is different depending on the instructor level,” explains El-Ashram. The wide range of courses being offered include; Drawing, Painting, Gardening, Dance, Robotics, Fashion Design, Costume Design, Chess, Make up, Sculpture, Jewellery-Making, Cooking and Storytelling, just to name a few. Unlike most schools SANE will be able to provide almost all the materials and equipment needed for each course.
Hoping to be more than just a learning centre, SANE is determined to be a creative community hub where families can learn new skills together in the same vibrant and colourful space. According to Serag “Usually the kids learn somewhere and the mother and father go somewhere else, but at SANE the family can be together at the same place with everyone doing something different and then going home together.”
While trying to attract to families with courses like baby yoga, SANE hopes to appeal to teenagers who are yet to determine what they want to do in life, before they start wasting money on a passionless education. “I think SANE is very important for teenagers. It’s that age where you feel lost and you want something to do so it’s better to have something productive than to go to a club,” summarises Goede.
Knowing that their success is dependent on how they evolve, SANE hopes that its students will provide the feedback that will help them accomplish their mission of being an open minded creative community that constantly changes to meet the growing needs of their students. More than just learning centre SANE hopes to double as a venue that showcases the creative work inspired within their community.
Opening their doors last weekend, SANE have started offering a slew of free classes design to show what SANE is all about. In this day and age it is vital to stimulate minds as the insane advancements in technology, albeit important, is slowly eroding the minds of Egyptian youth. Thankfully, this spring SANE is in full bloom offering ample opportunities to learn creative new skills that may inspire the passion that could shape/change the rest of your life.
To learn more about courses and events planned at SANE please visit their Facebook page here
Photos by Ahmed Alloush and Jonathan Zikry