Tuesday 22 August saw Pope Tawadros II open St Arsany Language School, a school established by the Coptic Orthodox Bishopric of Downtown Cairo Churches. The Pope was welcomed by Anba Raphail, Bishop-General of Downtown Cairo and Secretary of the Holy Synod who also received Cairo Governor General Atef Abdel-Hamid, Deputy Minister of Education Reda Higazy on behalf of Education Minister Tareq Shawki; officials from the Ministry of Education and Cairo Governorate , as well as a number of bishops, priests, deacons and members of the Coptic congregation.
St Arsany Language School has a history that goes back to 1903 when it was founded by the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate in order to teach its blind cantors industrial crafts that would help them make a livelihood. In 1950, the Coptic Orthodox Melli (Community) Council opened it to the public, turning it into a private school which the Ministry of Education categorised as a preparatory industrial school. Not much later it was converted to a productive industrial workshop affiliated to the Melli Council.
During the spate of nationalisation of institutions that overtook Egypt in the 1960s and which included many private schools, St Arsany’s came under the supervision of the Ministry of Education in 1967 and remained so till 1999. On 9 August 2000 the school was returned to the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Church obtained license to re-operate the school on 13 August 2013.
The school grounds cover some 5,753 square metres that include two buildings for classes, and another for administration purposes. Now that it has been equipped for study, it will operate partially during the school year 2017/2018, with 10 classrooms that will accommodate 220 students in different stages from Kindergarten to Third Primary. The playgrounds have been prepared to receive the children, and the classrooms equipped with a smart boards and video projectors. The students be supplied with tablets to use for classwork and homework.
In addition to the national curriculum of the Education Ministry; the school will teach special topics related to languages, human development, and etiquette; and will also offer special training on the development of mental and motor skills for students who need them.
Pope Tawadros gave a word in which he said: “I am glad to participate in the opening of St Arsany’s. I would like to thank Anba Raphail for his efforts to revive such a Church tradition [in education]. We are here today to deliver a tri-purpose message: first, that opening a school means closing ‘prison’ and opening a window of hope and opportunity; we need as many such windows as we can. Second, the Church contributes to the community as much as it can, building school and hospitals. Third, we have learnt that the best sources of wealth come from school classrooms. The Church participates as much as it can for children to be given the care that secures a blooming future for them.”
A beaming Cairo Governor Abdel-Hamid said: “I have the honour to participate in the reopening of St Arsany Language School. I told His Holiness Pope Tawadros that we have just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Khediveal School in Cairo; this is the 115th anniversary of St Arsanys. The school has a prime location and we are happy it is again in operation. The church has invested a lot for it to be as great as it is now.”
The Coptic Church has to its credit pioneering efforts in the field of schools and education since the 19th-century when it founded schools that offered excellent education to boys and girls of all religions. The “Coptic Schools” in Egypt were considered among the best, and their graduates went on to become leading figures in the community.
St Arsany, or Arsanius, is a 4th-century saint known as the ‘Teacher of the King’s Sons’. He was born in Rome around AD350 to Christian parents who gave him an excellent education which later qualified him to become teacher to Onorius and Arcadius, the two sons of Emperor Theodosius the Great. At age 40, he left Rome the rich court life and headed to Egypt’s Western Desert of Scetis Wilderness where he lived in al-Baramos monastery as an ascetic. He became famous for humbleness despite his great learning. He died in 445.
27 August 2017