“Teachers serve humanity. That was always the message that Dr. Abouleish used to deliver to us in our weekly meetings,” Entsar Meslam recounts the SEKEM Founder’s words. “It has been more than one year now since he passed away, but I still feel his spirit everywhere,” says the teacher at SEKEM Kindergarten.
Entsar Meslam joined SEKEM right after her graduation in 1996. “Although I was familiar with babysitting my nieces and nephews when their parents went out, I felt quite uncertain of my capabilities to handle such a responsible job at the beginning,” she tells. The today devoted teacher did not study at the faculty of education, but commerce. However, that was not the only reason behind her uncertainty. The young Entsar was enjoying her stay at home without duties. “I was so spoiled and lazy when I was young! I used to wake up at noon, watched tv while having a late breakfast. Then I cooked or went out and meet up with my friends,” she tells with a sarcastic smile.
Coincidence with perfect timing
It was a matter of coincidence when she knew about SEKEM’s need for teachers about 22 years ago. “My cousin was working at the SEKEM Kindergarten at that time. When being pregnant she had to quit her job and recommended me to replace her,” the long-standing SEKEM teacher recalls. That happened right after the death of her father: “It was not just a coincidence, but also a perfect timing for me. Working at SEKEM was quite helpful for me to move forward after the difficult loss,” Entsar explains.
“Regina Hanel was my companion in the journey of developing the SEKEM Kindergarten. Together we developed a lot.”
The mother of a one-year-old toddler had also experienced the work at the Nursery babygroup department, where she currently puts her son Hossam during her work time. “That was at the beginning of my pregnancy before having Hossam. Now I only go there twice during the break time to breastfeed him,” says the devoted mother. SEKEM offers the nursing mothers from its employees two extra breaks during the working day. That’s in addition to the possibility of reserving a place at SEKEM Nursery for their infants after returning from the maternity leave. Those are integral values of the ongoing Gender Strategy for a Balanced Society that SEKEM launched three years ago.
Developing the children’s potential and herself
“Although our job is known to be mainly carried out by females, it would be good to have male teachers as well,” says Entsar. “That became obvious to me when we had male SEKEM students as interns during the Girls’ Day. They exposed their great potential and kindness in treating the children.” As a part of this yearly event, girls from SEKEM School engage themselves in workshops that are typically occupied by men and male students intern as teachers at SEKEM Kindergarten and the School for Children with Special Needs, where mainly females are enrolled. Thereby students shall receive different perspectives in order to choose their later job free from gender barriers.
Entsar worked closely with Regina Hanel who joined SEKEM 25 years ago. The longstanding SEKEM member was the assistant of Ibrahim Abouleish beside managing the SEKEM Kindergarten, which is still under her supervision. “Regina was my companion in the journey of developing SEKEM Kindergarten. Together, we used to prepare the classrooms, crafted toys for the kids, and even painted the walls,” says the SEKEM co-worker passionately. “That has been a long time ago when the Kindergarten was at its very beginnings without sufficient teachers and we had to do almost everything by ourselves.”
“Kids have pure souls that should grow as gently as possible so that they are able to unleash their full potential”
Within the past 22 years at SEKEM, Entsar did not only support and accompany the development of many children at the Kindergarten, but also developed herself through different trainings and activities offered by SEKEM to all its teachers and co-workers. “I feel that the cultural sessions such as painting or eurythmy do not only strengthen the team bonding between us but also lift up our individual spirits,” she reveals. At the moment the committed teacher is enrolled in a two-year Diploma of Education for Sustainable Development, offered by Heliopolis University. “Such trainings help me a lot in finding always new ways to shape the daily routine and activities with kids.”
The expert Entsar is now the supervisor for all SEKEM institutions offered to small children: the babygroup, nursery and Kindergarten. She is now responsible for introducing and training new teachers as well as giving advice to parents when they come with questions on their kids’ development. Among these tasks, Entsar also sets the schedule for every new year – she chooses for instance songs, books or games for the children at different ages. “We are still guided by the words of Dr. Abouleish. He taught us how to look to the souls of the kids,” says the kind SEKEM teacher. “And I really believe in what he had said; kids have pure souls that should grow as gently as possible so that they are able to unleash their full potential.”