Family Club Domashniy Rebenok
A new democratic school has just been started in Egypt by a Russian immigrant group in Sinai, on the Red Sea. It is called Family Club Domashniy Rebenok, and is a community of parents and children interested in learning together. We chose this location because of the Red Sea and the climate, but also because the traditional inhabitants of the Sinai peninsula, the Bedouins, have a culture which includes an extraordinary openness and tolerance, and an unlimited love of children, fairness and peacefulness.
Our sources of inspiration are firstly, our own children, and then A. S. Neill and Summerhill, Sugata Mitra’s school with no teachers, which helps poor children in India to educate themselves by means of public computers embedded in walls (Hole-in-the-Wall Education Ltd.), Miloslav Balaban’s park-school system in Russia, which allows children to choose teachers, projects and kinds of work experience whenever they want or need to, Celestin Freinet’s concept of a school without compulsion and Plato’s academy.
Our principles include an understanding of the deep connection between man and nature, a wide scientific approach to world cognition and the humane use of modern technology, the absence of religious or any other ideology, the idea of every person’s responsibility for all that is happening in the world and respect for all people, regardless of nationality, religious beliefs, lifestyle, physical abilities, income and other differences.
The school opened in November 2011 with 35 children aged between eighteen months and eight years old. They are Russian, Egyptian, French, South African, Hungarian, Korean and Ukrainian. The intention is to grow to 50 students aged up to 16.
After the project had been running for three months we had another important idea – that we did not need teachers in a democratic school because parents are the best teachers and the best classroom is real life. We decided to leave Dahab and move to Nuweiba, a wild little Bedouin town seventy kilometers away from Israel. We decided to live in a camp on the beach as a community of families without teachers. All the parents in our community are talented, intelligent and professional. Every day parents organise lessons for kids, for example fun maths with a mother, art with a father. Bedouins do workshops for us too – camel-racing, crafts, making bread on an open fire etc.
The camp is close to an ecological farm and our kids learn how to grow their own organic vegetables and how to live a new sustainable life.
The main language of instruction is English, but we also use Arabic and Russian. All costs are covered by parents from our community who pay a yearly donation and a monthly fee .
The only other alternative school Lib Ed has heard of within an Arab culture is Hope Flowers, in Bethlehem. Hope Flowers has to cope with both Israeli obstruction and Muslim disapproval. Domashniy Rebenok does not suffer in the same way, and as long as it is allowed to continue under the new Egyptian government, it could serve as an example to the rest of the Arab world.