A School for Nawamis

The Makhad Trust started work in the Nawamis community to help them fulfill their desire to provide a school for their children. Long distances and a lack of infrastructure on the Sinai Peninsula disconnect villages and make it nearly impossible for desert children to attend school without leaving their home.

With the idea of making the community economically viable work started on an ecological desert centre. On the road between the famous St. Catherine’s Monastery and the popular dive site town of Dahab, it was perfectly sited so that travelers could stop for lunch and enjoy the fascinating and overwhelming Sinai landscape. It was planned to cater for small tourist groups who also wanted to stay overnight, experiencing the hospitality of the Bedouins. The centre was not only conceived as a tourist meeting point, it could have served multiple purposes; this idyllic place would make a perfect alternative to Sharm El Sheikh or Cairo for conferences and other meetings.

Since the centre’s opening to tourists in October 2010, the Makhad Trust has in addition actively pursued it’s plans to open a school for the local Bedouin children. However following the financial crisis of 2008 when there was a downturn in tourist numbers and now, with the uncertainty following the popular uprising at the beginning of 2011, tourism has dropped to a very low level. Sadly the centre is, in these circumstances, not sustainable as a tourist  venue; so in collaboration with the Egyptian Nawamis Development Society, the Makhad Trust has been able to realise its plans by the transfer of the eco-centre to the Ministry of Education for use as a school.

In July 2012 Dr. Sherif Samra, President of the Nawamis Development Society, and his team from Cairo met with officials in Nuweiba to hand over the Nawamis Desert Centre to the Ministry of Education. Shortly after that, in mid-September, the first class was inaugurated and a new school opened.

High ranking officials and a large entourage including local press came to the Opening Ceremony held on 3rd of October 2012. The Governor of South Sinai, General Khalid Fouda and the Mayor of Nuweiba, Brigadier Mohamed Abd El Moneim were the principal guests of honour.

About seven first graders come running to school in the morning to start their class punctually at 8 o’clock. They haven’t got far to go as their homes are only about 200 meters away. Living so close allows them to easily return home during their break and as a consequence the educational life of the children becomes part of the daily life of all the villagers. Teacher Ali Zidan teaches the children how to read and write Arabic. Besides Arabic, the English alphabet, mathematics and basics in religion are all part of the curriculum.

Ali is now living within the Bedouin Community and visits his family at weekends. He is one of only a small number of teachers who are willing to leave their homes and families in order to give much appreciated education to the Bedouin Community. Without their efforts such projects would be nearly impossible. The Makhad Trust hopes that the Bedouin of today will soon be able to teach their own future offspring and is still actively involved in the further development of the educational centre.

Each year another class will be established until a total number of six classes are fully operating and providing primary education. Four classes have already been approved by the authorities.

There is no doubt that education must be provided in South Sinai in order to guarantee its inhabitants the basics for a self-sustaining community which can participate in national and international trade, the tourism industry – Sinai indeed has a lot of attractions to offer – and other areas of the economic sector in Egypt. The Nawamis School has been a great achievement and Makhad Trust together with the Nawamis Development Society wish to thank all who contributed with their support in making this important milestone possible.