Breaking the Cycle of Illiteracy
Apache Corporation: Changing the lives of Egyptian girls one school at a time
Editor's note: This exhibition is organized by Arts and Exhibitions International, AEG Exhibitions and the National Geographic Society, in association with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities. Northern Trust is the proud cultural partner of the exhibition and American Airlines is the official airline. The Houston presentation of Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs is made possible by Apache.
In the grand scheme of things, $15,000 isn’t that much money. But for thousands of girls living in rural Egyptian villages, $15,000 is the difference between literacy and illiteracy, learning to add and subtract and the ability to write poetry. The right of education is possible through gifts made by Apache Corp., one of the sponsors of Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and a partnership with Springboard-Educating the Future. The collaboration means Egyptian girls have the opportunity to learn and, in turn, teach the next generation.
In 2005, Rodney J. Eichler, president and chief operating officer of Apache Corporation, was living and working in Egypt when he was approached about one-room schools for girls. One visit to an existing school, and Eichler was immediately behind the idea. When presented with the relatively low amount of money it took to build a school for 35 girls and led by two teachers, Apache board members, employees and friends jumped at the opportunity.
“They fell in love with the idea and were taking out their checkbooks,” Eichler said. “These schools transform shy little girls and provide an opportunity to break the cycle of illiteracy.”
Girls in rural villages often go their entire lives without learning to read, and many are married and become mothers in their early teens. In addition to problem-solving and analysis techniques, reading, writing and math, the girls are also taught the basics of female hygiene, an unknown topic to many young girls. An element unique to the one-room school is updated bathroom facilities, a rarity in poor areas, schools and homes.
The one-room schools are patterned after UNICEF’s schools and are built to last for 50 years or more, feature cool marble floors, high ceilings for optimal natural lighting, sun breaks to prevent overheating and the use of prevailing winds for cooling. The girls start the day with physical exercise and then follow with group time, learning corners, presentations, recess, sports and cleaning time. Eichler said the students sing, learn about famous Egyptian role models and learn Arabic.
“It’s hard not to get excited when you see them acting in very expressive plays or involved in art programs,” Eichler said. “They are learning new ways of thinking.”
The schools are starting a new cycle, one that centers on education instead of ignorance. Apache and Springboard work in conjunction with Girls' Education Initiative of Egypt's National Council for Childhood and Motherhood in hopes that the free girl-friendly schools will allow more parents to feel comfortable sending their daughters to daily school. Some poor Egyptian parents don’t register their daughters when they are born, assuming they will receive social insurance and other benefits when they marry. With an education, young women have options they didn’t have before.
Apache has built 200 schools, and Eichler said his greatest joy will be when the company has the privilege to send one of those shy little girls to college someday.
“We can have an immediate impact with this education initiative. We are telling the girls, 'you can do this,'” Eichler said.
To learn how to donate to One-Room Schools for Egypt’s Girls, click here.
Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs runs October 16, 2011 to April 15, 2012 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Caroline Wiess Law Building at 1001 Bissonnet. For more information, call 713.639.7300 or visit mfah.org.
For tickets, call the King Tut Ticket Hotline at 1-888-931-4TUT (4888)
Tut Exhibition Entry Times are:
Monday-Wednesday: 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Opens at 9 a.m., closes at 5 p.m.)
Thursday- Saturday: 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Opens at 9:30 a.m., closes at 9 p.m.)
Sunday: 12:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Opens at 12:15 p.m., closes at 7 p.m.)