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With their tiny hands on each other’s shoulders, children at AUC’s daycare center lined up for their painting activity. Boys and girls in little aprons stood in front of their palettes making colorful scribbles and squiggles.After almost half an hour of messy play, the children lined up again for other free-choice activities that included music, drawing, reading books, going out to the garden and playing with construction toys, puzzles and clay.
Sherry Arnold reading stories to the children
The Caring for the Children of AUC Center is the brainchild of Khadiga El Ghazaly, former AUC staff member who currently serves as the center’s director.
Spearheading the initial push in the early 1980s, El Ghazaly surveyed faculty and staff members about the need for a daycare facility for their children and helped collect contributions from parents, raffles and bookkeeping services. As a result of her vigilant efforts, the first center was inaugurated in 1984 in the old Zamalek Dormitory to serve children of faculty and staff members.
Within a span of eight years, the center moved to a
villa on Sheikh Rihan Street, then to the old Falaki building before eventually settling in the rear of the Greek Campus.Today, it has found a new home on the New Cairo
Campus.The center, which accommodates up to 80 children, has four classrooms, two napping rooms, a library, a cafeteria, an outside playground and an inside courtyard. Providing support to its employees, the university heavily subsidizes the daycare center by having faculty and staff members pay only 5 percent of their salaries, while the rest of the fees are paid by AUC.
The Caring for the Children of AUC Center follows a philosophy focused on offering a stimulating and nurturing environment that allows children to learn through play, exploration and discovery. Learning takes place while children play and interact with each other and with their teachers in an open environment, not through a formal, tutorial style.“Our philosophy is that each child will grow and learn at their own pace, and we try to work with the children to find their inner strengths,” said Sherry Arnold, educational consultant and chair of the center’s board of directors.
To achieve the center’s goals, teachers take part in regular training workshops. “Anytime you work in education, there’s always something else that you can do, something else you can give, something else you can learn,” noted Arnold, who helped register the center as a non-governmental organization when she came to Egypt in 2003 to accompany her husband David D. Arnold, who currently serves as the university’s president. She was instrumental in setting up and customizing the daycare site on the New Cairo Campus when it was all still plans on paper.“We’re a staple on the new campus now, and I’m hoping we become more and more a part of the AUC community and that we can be counted on to provide excellent care and an early preschool experience for the children,” she said.
Arnold has been active in education for 25 years.While earning her bachelor’s from Western Michigan University in English and psychology, she became a state-certified high school teacher. She also earned a degree in early childhood education from the American Montessori Society, certifying her to teach children up to 6 years of age.When the family moved abroad to India,Arnold spent the summers in Thailand attaining an international teaching license through Michigan State University. She has also worked at the United Nations School in New York City.
“There’s something really engaging about working with international communities, particularly getting children to have an appreciation for their own culture and for other people’s cultures,” she explained.“It’s important in this world, which is becoming smaller and smaller, for people to learn to respect and have an interest in other people’s lives, and this needs to be taught early on.”
Taking children from diverse backgrounds, AUC’s daycare center starts them on a path that teaches the larger ideals of AUC.“An early childhood education sets you up for a love of learning, and that’s what AUC is doing,” said Arnold. “It’s teaching in an increasingly diverse world that you need to be open to new ideas and new people. AUC doesn’t teach you what to think; it teaches you how to think, and I believe that process starts early.”
A grandmother of six boys, Arnold has established a legacy at the daycare center that continues to this day. As a tribute to her love of children and commitment to AUC’s daycare center, her daughter, Kate, recently named a playground at the daycare center Nana’s Playground, which is what her grandchildren call her
By Sarah Topol
Photos by Ahmad El-Nemr