Spoon Feeding

While on the plane, on my way from Bahrain to Dubai, I was reading the book “The Poison Tree Planted and Grown in Egypt” by Marwa Rakha when I stopped at a part where she explained her experience with a silk worm in her childhood.


I first met Marwa in the mid nineties when she was my student at the American University in the School of Continuing Education, previously known as the Center of Adult and Continuing Education, she later became a colleague instructor, trying to share her experience and knowledge with her students as we all try our best to.


I have known Marwa for quite a long time; I have seen her move from one job to another, from Sheraton Soma bay, to Ritz Carlton Sharm El Sheikh to Fairmont Towers, with additional side activities as writing in some magazines, being a TV presenter at OTV and a blogger. I was regular reader of her blog, from which she generated the book.


Going back to the part that stopped me Marwa wrote on page 109:


“One day my father got me a silk worm –as a pet. With lots of love, I watched my worm transform into a cocoon and I waited for the colorful butterfly to come out of its silk hiding. I woke up one morning to find a small opening in my cocoon. I watched the butterfly trying to get out, then I decided to help her; I proudly yet lovingly, cut the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily but something was wrong with my pet; it had an engorged body and small wings. I waited for the moment when she would fly. It never happened! My baby pet spent the rest of her life crawling. My dad then explained to me that the butterfly’s struggle to get through the tiny opening was nature’s way of strengthening my pet so that it would be ready for flying once it was free from the cocoon.

Today as I watch many of the young men and women that I come across at work or in  my classes and workshops, the image of my poor pet comes to my mind….in their attempt to protect their kids crippled them…..like my butterfly, they face the world with shriveled wings, limp bodies, porous bones, and hollow heads.

They are neither equipped to deal with the heavy blows of fate nor the daily challenges of life”


Being an instructor for fifteen years I had experienced this feeling, I found out that students will come not to learn but to pass the exam and get a certificate or another label, the main purpose is to improve their chances in the job market or enhance their opportunities for a promotion, it was not the content but rather the piece of paper.


I was at first shocked at the question “how is the final exam?” then with time I started to manipulate the situation.


I would agree with Marwa that parents cripple their children,  and the education system has also a very strong contribution.

I went to school from mid sixties till mid seventies, I don’t remember ever being worried about what is the exam or getting the questions of the exam as a short cut to succeed the exam.

The highly competitive thanawyia ama and the corrupted evaluation system lead to an education that focuses on short cuts,  In a country like Egypt where labels bear a very high importance, where some profession are better viewed from the society than others, the competition of these particular lines of education becomes very fierce in view of the limited number of seats available and the high demand the rule of offer and demand applies and the seats will be granted to the highest bidder or in education terms highest exam scores


I cannot blame this generation, they are stuck between parents who want them to get the highest scores with whatever mean and an education system, more specifically evaluation system, that is corrupted it has been deciphered few years ago, probably the exam data bank has not been updated long time ago, prediction plays an important role in spoon feeding the information that is required to get the full marks


I have witnessed also the result of this collective behavior in a place that is unique, the Library of Alexandria. For me the Library had two facets, the first is the regular job and its professional growth opportunity, the second is the cultural element which present a personal growth opportunity. Unfortunately few saw this and the rest were focusing on their 9 to 5 jobs. The Library, for them, is a place of work, it is their job provider and that is it. The education killed the curiosity in many young Egyptians while the focus of their families to get them through to University feeding them trying to escape any remote chance of disappointment deprives them also from the ability to learn and explore.


9 Responses to “Spoon Feeding”

  1. 1 Marwa Rakha February 17, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Dr. Rafik .. I am very honored that you chose to quote me and my book. This particular topic is very sensitive and a lot of parents refuse to admit that with their over protection they raised a bunch of good for nothing kids that will raise in their turn more useless kids … I hope people realize that incubators are not fit for adults:)

  2. 2 rafiknakhla February 17, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    I like the word incubator. I realized that we are doing the same thing with our kids.
    when I read this part of the book it was like a signal an alarm and I started reviewing my attitude and actions.
    one thing we moved from the Egyptian education system that unfortunately is good for nothing to an international curriculum which stimulates curiosity and learning.
    secondly I stopped being over protective.
    If this country wants to rise again then it should focus on education as a top priority.
    Egyptian kids are smart but through exposure to an education system that is nothing but a race in rote memorization their natural skills are destroyed gradually.
    I am amazed that people working in such a place as the Library of Alexandria fail to benefit form this place and come and go as the employees of any job provider.
    I actually was discussing this a couple of days ago with Dr. Ismail the director of the Library.
    I once wrote an article in the newsletter we were issuing in the Library about these two facets, but it seems to me today that the message was rejected. everybody is in hurry to finish in a hurry to be promoted, in a continuous hurry

  3. 3 Marwa February 20, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    I’ve recently graduated from AUC, but before going to AUC i went to an all girls Arabic governmental school. Recently i was watching the movie “Malk we Ktaba” (Head a tail) and as i was watching the scene where mahmoud hemida (playing the role of a college professor) was commenting to his students about a research paper they had submitted and how he snapped at one of the students for including a couple of lines that represented his opinion literally telling him that he is not good enough to have an opinion, i remembered how our English witting professors struggled to get us to spell out our opinions and i thanked god for getting the chance to study at AUC. I also remembered how things were like back when i was at school and how most of our instructors were doing nothing but creating replicas of them selves or at least their ideas in thier students. I look at this and suddenly one of the major reasons we are still a developing country is very clear to me.

  4. 4 rafiknakhla February 20, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    thank you Marwa for your comment;creating replicas of themselves, they themselves are replicas of someone else.
    we loose our critical mind our capacity to express opinions when we go through the system, a system that creates only one profile and unfortunately through short cuts which make people in a hurry to achieve a lot in a very short time which never happens.
    Mahmoud Hemeida represented the stereotype very cleverly, he also added that nothing in the research paper should come from external reference only from his book, a clever attempt to replicate himself

  5. 5 noranshafey February 21, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    I enjoyed so much what Marwa wrote, as I always do with her writings. I’m also enjoying your conversations so much.
    Just 2 points I’d like to add; First of all I agree with you Dr. Rafik about employees of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina not making full use of their position, as a former employee in the BA myself, I never missed any exhibition, important lecture or cultural event. These I would attend mostly during my lunch break. Indeed it was a great privilege and honor working there.
    As to our “Spoon Feeding” our children, well this unfortunately goes on even till we marry them off! I can’t understand why a newly wed couple need to have their home completely ready with electric appliances, at least 2 bedrooms, stuck-up sitting rooms and lot’s of other non-usable nonsense.
    What’s wrong with letting them start of with a 2 room apartment or even a studio and furnishing it with the simple necessities till their family grows?!
    I’m glad my daughter agrees with me on that at least 🙂

  6. 6 rafiknakhla February 21, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Nouran, Thank you for your comments, I agree with your last comment, as parents we even want our children to start where we arrived and we do not unfortunately teach them to climb the stairs one step at a time we let them think they can make huge jumps and big leaps.
    Again I strongly believe that this is a result of an education system that instead of building personalities and characters, demolishes them totally, they lose the ability to critically think and form their own opinion on matters such as marriage and their life.
    I was having a discussion today with a friend about a young couple that got divorced over a fight over which restaurant to go to. both took such trivial matter so personally that it broke a relation that was not properly founded in the first instance

  7. 7 rafiknakhla February 23, 2009 at 7:16 am

    I would like to add what I picked from Al Ahram today:

    كتب عبد الفتاح صلاح في الاهرام يوم 23 فبراير: “وأعتقد أن واقعة اسلام هي نتاج طبيعي لعملية تعليمية دب فيها الشيب‏,‏ وبح أصوات خبرائنا في التنبيه إليه مرارا وتكرارا‏,‏ حيث إنها تحتاج ـ منذ زمن مضي ـ لمراجعة حقيقية‏,‏ بعد أن تدهور حالها‏,‏ وبلغ ذروته في مقتل تلميذ الابتدائي داخل حرم المدرسة‏!‏ مقتل اسلام كان قمة جبل الجليد‏,‏ وما خفي كان أعظم‏,‏ أشار إلي بعضه الدكتور إسماعيل سراج الدين‏,‏ مدير مكتبة الاسكندرية عندما نعي أخيرا تدني مستوي خريج الجامعة‏,‏ والمناهج التي تقضي علي الفضول العلمي‏,‏ وحال الأسرة المصرية‏,‏ والتي أصبح الهم الشاغل لها‏,‏ هو حصول أبنائها علي الشهادات الجامعية وكفي‏..‏ دون اعتبار للجودة والملاءمة لسوق العمل‏!”‏

    Education system overhaul is needed and it is now the time to do it. Waiting does only aggravate the problem and increase the cost of reform

  8. 8 Wandering Scarab February 23, 2009 at 7:44 pm


    This is the first time I’ve seen your blog. It is incredibly enlightening, and refreshing to see a different point of view coming from an Arab male. I’m accustomed to reading inflammatory material along with hotheaded comments from Egyptian male bloggers. Thankfully, your blog is among the few that provide gender neutral discussion.

    We are in agreement about many things. What attracted my attention in this article is the “spoon feeding” concept you talk about. I wrote an article some time ago describing what I thought are contributing causes to the rising rates of divorce in Egypt currently, which you can read here http://wanderingscarab.blogspot.com/2008/09/divorce-in-egypt.html

    I think this “spoon feeding” behavior that is practiced by parents today goes hand in hand with the inability of Egyptian youth to maintain stable relationships, let alone face life’s daily challenges and the more intense traumatic experiences. Once again, Marwa has hit the nail on the head.

  9. 9 rafiknakhla February 24, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Wandering Scarab, thank you for your nice comments I actually earlier wrote two articles in the same blog about merits of couples and men and women again, I expressed some of my point of views about the relationship and what needs to be done and they are inline with what you wrote on your blog.

    Spoon feeding you are right does not help the young to develop and become independent mature and responsible.

    The extreme protection and the helping hand that extends in every dire situation does the same to them as Marwa’s helping hand did to the butterfly. it did not develop its wings and they do not develop a mature personality which comes from facing life with its ups and downs crossing over difficulties falling down then rising again

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