A group of schoolchildren in 10 Ramadan city decided to take matters into their own hands recently in terms of changing people’s attitudes and spreading values like tolerance, cleanliness, order and charity.
Mobaderoun (the initiators) is the name of the initiative the children are working for, organised by their school administration.It aims at finding practical ways of enhancing the ethics of children through a campaign that also benefits the wider community, choosing a different value every week and applying it inside and outside school premises.
Deputy head of the school in charge of the initiative Ahmed Shaarawi said that “we organised the campaign so that our children can learn to help others while teaching them the ethics of solidarity and tolerance. Because of recent events in the country, some of these values were lost. We want our children to be aware that some people are in need, and we want them to help them so that they do not take things for granted.
” He added that such activities also help bring students and family members together and enhance their awareness of the wider world.
The initiative has been going for three years now and started with an internal campaign inside the school.
“We chose some values to work on, such as order, tolerance, commitment, cleanliness, honesty and helping others,” Shaarawi said. “Then we began to choose a value per month and then every week. Starting from last year we started to apply these values outside school as well,” giving the example of a family found living on the street for which the initiative was able to find lodging.
To activate a value, the initiative chooses a student to be a leader who leads efforts to think of a method of applying it.
One student typically explains the value, the method of its application and its worth to his colleagues. Then the children spread this information in other classes.
There are 70 classes in the school, and a leader is chosen from each class. By the end of the week, each is ready to show their ideas.
There is also a “class pioneer” who talks to others about a value individually. One of the ideas to apply the value of education, for example, was to ask older students to teach the needy how to read and write.
The number of children participating in the campaign differs depending on the value applied, though it averages 600 students
. A student who applies the value the most gets a free trip from the school and a badge for his uniform with the word mobader (initiator) on it. His photograph is also posted on the school website, and he helps to organise school competitions.
“Starting from the beginning of the winter, we have helped to provide blankets for those in need. Last year, we were able to distribute 260 blankets, 100 from the school and 160 from the children,” Shaarawi comments of this year’s campaigns, adding that the school donated the 100 blankets to support the children in doing good deeds. The children then distributed them to the needy.
“Last year, we were able to raise LE30,000 in donations for the Children’s Cancer Hospital in Cairo as part of charity week.
We also helped a patient who needed an operation. We helped some newly married orphan couples to furnish their homes by buying them water heaters and ovens,” Shaarawi said, adding that 80 per cent of the donations were from the schoolchildren, while the rest were from the school.
Some teachers donated five days’ salary to helping the needy and organised sports days in which the children practised cycling.
The idea of the initiative is to have children think for themselves about how they will apply a value. For example, in the campaign Hangamelha (we will make things beautiful), some students drew pictures of how they wished Egypt to be, while others planted flowers in their gardens.
They also organised a cleanliness campaign in which there was a competition between children posting pictures of their tidy wardrobes, the student with the tidiest wardrobe winning a prize. “The most recent initiative is saving, including saving water and electricity,” Shaarawi said.
According to Mobaderoun co-coordinator Sherine Sakr, 80 per cent of students from the primary stage are participating in the initiative that has organised 15 campaigns.
She helps the children on the practical level, she says, helping them to understand and apply a value. Places the initiative has spread to include the Children’s Cancer Hospital, the Abul-Reesh Hospital, and various mosques in 10 Ramadan City, where the children help to clean the premises and carpets.
The initiative is organised by the school, the students, and their parents. They are willing to cooperate with governmental organisations if the educational purposes of the imitative are maintained, Shaarawi said.
“The role of the teachers is to help the children choose the value and discuss and apply it with them. This was exemplified in a campaign called Zaker Darsak (study), in which the teachers helped the children to study efficiently. The parents financially support their children. If, for example, a parent happens to be a doctor, he lectures the children on health and medicine. If the parent is in the army, he raises their awareness about personal security,” Shaarawi said.
Heba Mohamed, the mother of two children participating in the initiative, said the initiative had changed the attitudes of her children.
“The teacher talks to the children about values that have almost disappeared from society and teaches them how to apply them. For example, when the value of the week was cleanliness, my children started to apply it at home by cleaning the house. When the value was using the Internet wisely, my children discovered that they could also use it for finding information, not just watching cartoons,” she said.
“My little boy was not outgoing, but after participating in the initiative this changed, and he started working with his peers recording videos and posting them online. He now has more self-confidence. I am happy with this initiative since it teaches children values like commitment, giving and tolerance. It is a simple idea, but it is enjoyable and fun,” she said.
Her son Youssef, 10, lists what he has learnt from the initiative. “I took part in the tolerance and commitment value weeks. I learnt that cooperation is the secret to success and that cleanliness is next to godliness. The thing I liked the most in the initiative was to use water sparingly,” he said.
Shaarawi added that the school would like to extend the initiative. “We would like to organise events in clubs, but it is difficult to get permission in time. One of the happiest moments in my life was when a little girl came to my office and told me that she would give me LE1 every day to save for her so that she is able to give to the needy. The country will not develop unless those who have everything give to those who have nothing, activating the Islamic value of solidarity,” he said.
Sakr agreed. “I would like other schools to cooperate with us in the initiative in terms of spreading values,” she said. One way of doing this would be for “more initiatives to be organised by the children themselves with school support”, Mohamed concluded.
* A version of this article appeared in print in the 15 November, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Enhancing childhood ethics