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Education in Egypt

Prof lending expertise to help educate girls

By Heidi Wicks

Dr. Dennis Mulcahy, Faculty of Education, may have spent part of his summer amidst the pyramids and mummies of ancient Egypt, but the aspirations for educational development held by the country’s universities are definitely contemporary.

Dr. Mulcahy received an invitation from the Ministry of Higher Education for Egypt to be part of a program sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is funding an education reform project for universities in Egypt. Dr. Mulcahy was asked to work with professors in Egyptian universities who are interested in developing and improving a teacher education program for their rural schools – specifically one classroom schools for girls between the ages of eight and 14.

Dr. Mulcahy was asked to be part of this project because he is recognized internationally for his work in rural education and small schools. The Egyptian educators wanted him to lend his expertise in the area of multi-grade and multi-age classrooms to their efforts to revise their existing programs for teacher development.

“Education in Egypt to some extent is still a bit problematic for girls in some areas,” Dr. Mulcahy explained. “From what I understand, there is still in some rural areas the notion that education is not that important for girls. So I think it’s a wonderful initiative that the Egyptian government is developing these one-classroom schools for girls, which will be set in various villages around rural Egypt.”

The fact that Dr. Mulcahy ended up in Egypt is a testament to the power of the Internet and Google.

“They wanted someone with an expertise in rural education, who had some interest in teacher education for rural schools, in multi-grade or multi-level classrooms,” said Dr. Mulcahy. “So they just Googled those terms and my name kept coming up. It was fantastic really. The people in the ministry said, ‘We have to see if we can find this Dennis Mulcahy!”

USAID then found the professor through his website.

Dr. Mulcahy has a great admiration for the work that is being done in Egypt, and is determined to return to expand on his own research.

“During the time I was there I met several deans from other universities who are very interested in developing teacher education,” he said. “I’ve always been drawn to causes where people are on the fringe of society, or who have been neglected in some way. To some extent I’ve gotten involved in rural education in Newfoundland because I felt that even here, we were ignoring our small schools and pretending they didn’t exist anymore. Even today, they still somewhat exist on the margins of people’s consciousness. When programs and policies are developed here, I don’t think we give sufficient attention to how these will play out in our small schools. I hear this from my graduate students all the time.”

Dr. Mulcahy took advantage of his time in Egypt to begin the process of initiating his own research project that will focus on rural education in general but with a special focus on the one classroom schools. He has established important contacts and links with several universities and researchers in Egypt.