Mennonite educationists touch global vision in Egypt

By staff writers
June 8, 2006

Mennonite educationists touch global vision in Egypt

-08/06/06

The experience of working to support education and development in Egypt boosts the passion to think globally, say Sandy and Barrette Wiebe Plett, both originally from Winkler, Manitoba, Canada, who started a three-year placement with Mennonite Central Committee in November 2005 to train English teachers in the Arab country.

After seeing media reports of the suffering caused by the 2004 tsunami, the Winnipeg couple decided to leave the comfort of their jobs and newly-purchased house to work in the developing world, writes MCC correspondent Gladys Terichow.

MCC is a North American inter-Mennonite relief agency which also advocates for justice and peace in many situations across the world. It is also involved in aid for earthquake hit Java at present.

"The catalyst was the tsunamióit forced us to turn our thoughts to the wider world," said Barrette, who left his teaching position at the Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary School to work in Egypt. Sandy served as the director of summer camps and youth projects for Mennonite Church Manitoba prior to their departure to Egypt.

"Life is precious, life is potentially very short" and it is important to take advantage of each opportunity "to grow in solidarity with the world," explained Sandy Wiebe Plett. "This is part one of our work. Part two is to help people think more globally. We can be very inward focused in North America."

The couple lives in Assiut, a city of about 400,000 in the Nile Valley, about 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of Cairo. They spend their time with English teachers in classroom settings and share ideas on teaching techniques.

The long-term goal is to start a training centre for teachers working in the nine schools run by the Synod of the Nile Presbyterian Church in Upper Egypt (which is actually the southern part of the country). The Synod has 16 schools in Egypt.

The schools they support in Upper Egypt range in size from 1,500 to 2,500 students. Each school has about three to four buildings. Class sizes are generally close to 50 students in classrooms less than 28 square metres (300 square feet).

School supplies and teaching resources are inadequate, explained Barrette. Teachers don't have the time or incentive to plan because they teach different classes on a regular basis and provide private tutoring services in the evenings to help children pass their exams.

"Teachers are unbelievably warm and open to our suggestions," said Sandy Wiebe Plett. "We only suggest things that we think could be possible for teaching under these circumstances."

Mennonite Central Committee has supported schools and other ministries of Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Evangelical churches since 1973. MCC currently has 15 service workers and staff in Egypt, a country of 76 million.

[Also on Ekklesia: Inter-Mennonite agencies cooperate in disaster action; Mennonites describe Indonesian earthquake horror; Java quake scene like tsunami, says Indonesian Mennonite; UK Anglican election observer invited to Congo by Mennonites; Mennonites and other churches step up Darfur relief; Mennonites and Anglicans work to overcome violence in northeast Uganda; Cambodian tree project backed by fossil fuel-free Mennonites; More church agencies gear up aid for Java quake zone; End scandal of poverty in churches, says Mennonite leader; Mennonites to play mediating role in Congolese election; Decade to Overcome Violence gathers momentum]

Mennonite educationists touch global vision in Egypt

-08/06/06

The experience of working to support education and development in Egypt boosts the passion to think globally, say Sandy and Barrette Wiebe Plett, both originally from Winkler, Manitoba, Canada, who started a three-year placement with Mennonite Central Committee in November 2005 to train English teachers in the Arab country.

After seeing media reports of the suffering caused by the 2004 tsunami, the Winnipeg couple decided to leave the comfort of their jobs and newly-purchased house to work in the developing world, writes MCC correspondent Gladys Terichow.

MCC is a North American inter-Mennonite relief agency which also advocates for justice and peace in many situations across the world. It is also involved in aid for earthquake hit Java at present.

"The catalyst was the tsunamióit forced us to turn our thoughts to the wider world," said Barrette, who left his teaching position at the Winnipeg Mennonite Elementary School to work in Egypt. Sandy served as the director of summer camps and youth projects for Mennonite Church Manitoba prior to their departure to Egypt.

"Life is precious, life is potentially very short" and it is important to take advantage of each opportunity "to grow in solidarity with the world," explained Sandy Wiebe Plett. "This is part one of our work. Part two is to help people think more globally. We can be very inward focused in North America."

The couple lives in Assiut, a city of about 400,000 in the Nile Valley, about 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of Cairo. They spend their time with English teachers in classroom settings and share ideas on teaching techniques.

The long-term goal is to start a training centre for teachers working in the nine schools run by the Synod of the Nile Presbyterian Church in Upper Egypt (which is actually the southern part of the country). The Synod has 16 schools in Egypt.

The schools they support in Upper Egypt range in size from 1,500 to 2,500 students. Each school has about three to four buildings. Class sizes are generally close to 50 students in classrooms less than 28 square metres (300 square feet).

School supplies and teaching resources are inadequate, explained Barrette. Teachers don't have the time or incentive to plan because they teach different classes on a regular basis and provide private tutoring services in the evenings to help children pass their exams.

"Teachers are unbelievably warm and open to our suggestions," said Sandy Wiebe Plett. "We only suggest things that we think could be possible for teaching under these circumstances."

Mennonite Central Committee has supported schools and other ministries of Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Evangelical churches since 1973. MCC currently has 15 service workers and staff in Egypt, a country of 76 million.

[Also on Ekklesia: Inter-Mennonite agencies cooperate in disaster action; Mennonites describe Indonesian earthquake horror; Java quake scene like tsunami, says Indonesian Mennonite; UK Anglican election observer invited to Congo by Mennonites; Mennonites and other churches step up Darfur relief; Mennonites and Anglicans work to overcome violence in northeast Uganda; Cambodian tree project backed by fossil fuel-free Mennonites; More church agencies gear up aid for Java quake zone; End scandal of poverty in churches, says Mennonite leader; Mennonites to play mediating role in Congolese election; Decade to Overcome Violence gathers momentum]

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