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Two cultures, one goal: education

Two cultures, one goal: education
Two cultures, one goal: education
Maryam Ibrahim Al-Shwafi gives Corydon Elementary School first-grader Max Gudding a keychain from her home country of Yemen Sept. 1 as Lamia Yahia Al-Eryani, left, and Tamela Brewer, CES principal, look on. Photo by Alan Stewart (click for larger version)

More than 7,500 miles apart, Yemen, located on the Arabian Peninsula in southwest Asia, and Corydon are as diverse as two locales could be.
The capital city of Sana’a in Yemen has a population of more than 1.7 million; Corydon’s population is about 3,000. According to the 2000 census, the median income in Corydon was $33,823; in Yemen, 17.5 percent of the population lived on less than $1.25 a day between 2000 and 2006.
But at least one commonality between the two areas is the pursuit for quality education for children.
In an effort to experience schooling in other parts of the world, the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program in Washington, D.C., chose Corydon Elementary School as a stop for two educational leaders from Yemen Sept. 1.
Lamia Yahia Al-Eryani, general manager of the Shawthab Foundation for Childhood and Development, and Maryam Ebrahim Al-Shwafi, executive manager and secretary general for the same organization, spent about 90 minutes learning about CES, its teaching and disciplinary practices and general culture from principal Tamela Brewer, counselor Cheryl Lone and first-grade teacher and curriculum coach Angela Miller.
Al-Eryani and Al-Shwafi were somewhat surprised to learn that public school curriculum in America is based on teacher input and varies from school to school and class to class.
‘In our country, our curriculum is published by the government and is the same in all public schools,’ Al-Eryani said.
The two women also said that students learn about the United States and its history in many parts of the Third World.
‘From our experience, our students know more about the United States than the United States knows about the Third World,’ Al-Shwafi said, with Brewer agreeing.
After a few more minutes of a question-and-answer session, the two visitors received a tour of the school. They were shown the gymnasium, lunchroom, several classrooms and library.
After presenting first-grader Max Gudding with a keychain from Yemen (in exchange for a drawing Gudding made for the women), Al-Shwafi and Al-Eryani stopped for a visit in Miller’s room, where they taught students the Arabic words for ‘tomorrow’ (bukra) and ‘girl’ (bint).
Most of the students got a chuckle as the women told them there wasn’t any difference in the Arabic word for computer.
‘It’s computer, just like it is here,’ Al-Eryani said.
Answering a few more questions, the women said their flight to America took 26 hours, their religion is Muslim, their beds look just like American beds, and the reason they wear burkas is not only because of their religion, but because it’s cold here compared to their country (64 degrees here, compared to 80 degrees in Yemen that day).
After the stop at CES, the two women visited Rainbow’s End childcare services in Corydon and were slated to visit with Executive Director Steve Gilliland of the Harrison County Community Foundation, as well as Home of the Innocents and Court Appointed Special Advocates of the River Region in Louisville, before departing for their native country.
The International Visitor Leadership Program annually brings to the United States approximately 5,000 foreign nationals from all over the world to meet and confer with their professional counterparts and to experience America firsthand.
The visitors, who are selected by American Foreign Service Officers overseas, are current or potential leaders in government, politics, media, education, arts, business and other fields.