In this interview, Amina Hamza, a woman pioneer of education, shared the milestones of her educational journey and her career. She spoke about her father’s support for her education, and her own participation in the strikes against the British occupation in Egypt. Amina held several teaching posts, concluding her career path as a teaching supervisor and mentor. She believed that teaching history had the power to develop a cultural consciousness, and to foster a national spirit.
Amina started her educational journey at al-Miqyas Elementary School, where she studied for four years to earn the elementary certificate, before attending Misr al-Qadima Primary School, by the Nile Corniche, for another four years, and completing her primary education with excellence. Amina recounted that her father, who worked as a mosque imam, was an enlightened man, and a proponent of girls’ education. He insisted that she pursued formal education to finish high school, so he enrolled her in al-Saniya Secondary School, where Amina studied for five years to earn the Culture Certificate, then one year to earn her high-school diploma. She initially joined the science department with a desire to attend the Faculty of Medicine after that. However, because it was difficult for her to deal with the mathematics teacher, she decided after consulting her father to transfer to the literature department.
Among Amina’s schoolmates were Ms. Amal Bakir, Ms. Hafsa Helmy, and Ms. Faeida Kamel, who led the school strikes against the British occupation. The School Principal was Ms. Karima al-Saeed, whom Amina described as a righteous and strong lady. For Amina, Ms. Karima taught the students discipline, commitment, and good morals. Amina also recalled that her teachers Ms. Zaynab al-Atrebi, Ms. Dawlat Sadiq, and Ms. Enayat al-Tahawi had a great impact on her.
Upon graduating school, Amina attended the Faculty of Arts, and was the first girl in her family to attend university. At the time, students chose their specialization during the second academic year, and Amina’s desire was to join the English Department, but she did not score the grades to enable her admission into the Department. In addition, with the eruption of the 1952 Revolution, the Faculty students participated in the protests, and organized strikes against the British occupation. As a result, the Head of the English Department, who was British, did not allow a large number of students into the Department, and only admitted graduates of the American colleges. Amina did not participate in any demonstrations or strikes as per her father’s instructions.
For a while, Amina moved between the several departments at the Faculty of Arts, and eventually settled on studying at the Department of History. She loved studying history, and earned her bachelor’s degree in history. Although she was assigned to teach at al-Mansoura Teachers’ School after her graduation, she did not accept the assignment, and insisted on completing her two-year postgraduate studies at the Faculty of Education in Zamalek to earn a higher diploma in education. She was then appointed as a history teacher at al-Helmeya Secondary School. On her first day as a teacher, Amina went to school with an outfit that resembled the students’ school uniform, and due to her young age, some people thought that she was one of the girls applying for the school. The principal even rebuked her for being in the staff-only area, thinking she was a student.
Amina loved working at al-Helmeya Secondary School, and settled in it for a long time. She did not leave it until after her marriage because it was far from her new residence. She was then seconded to work in one of the preparatory schools in al-Rawda district, and stayed there for one year, before returning to al-Helmeya Secondary School due to the teacher shortage there. Amina tried to transfer to Misr al-Qadima Secondary School, which was headed by Principal Rose Shams, but could not find a vacancy there, so she was transferred to Misr al-Qadima Technical Secondary School, which was later renamed The Nile School. The School Principal was Ms. Souad Bahgat, from whom Amina learned how to avoid conflicts, and how to build a good friendly relationship with her colleagues to become like a family.
Amina was appointed as the Principal of Misr al-Qadima School, after the departure of Ms. Zaynab Serry. She later served as a teaching supervisor of history, upon the request of Mr. Nasr Asaad, the senior teaching supervisor of history, who saw in Amina the merit and capability needed to mentor history teachers. He helped her a lot at the beginning of her new post as a supervisor and a mentor. Amina enjoyed this period a lot, and considered it the best time of her life. She cherished her work so much, and recalled the welcoming reception into the schools she visited as a supervisor, and her keenness to visit at least two schools a day, during the morning and evening school days. Amina also recounted that during her tenure, she ensured that each school created a large display board showing the history of those who gave the school its name, such as Khalid ibn al-Waleed, Amr ibn al-Aas, and others, in addition to ensuring that the Islamic Hijri calendar was used in the classrooms along with the Gregorian date.
Amina received a month-long training at the College for Girls, to qualify for a promotion as a supervisor for the secondary stage, but after the training she was seconded to Oman to serve as a principal in a preparatory school for four years. It was one of the successful and happy periods in her life, despite the hardships of living there. By the end of her secondment, she preferred to return to Egypt, although her name was on the list of staff whose secondment was open for renewal. Amina was proud of the appreciation and love she received from the people she worked with during her secondment, and was also grateful for the good relations she maintained with them.
Upon her return to Egypt, Amina resumed her post as a teaching supervisor and mentor, and got promoted to work as a supervisor for the secondary stage, then as a senior supervisor. She later received another training, and became a general supervisor, before retiring. Amina recounted how she tried to instill the national spirit in her students, and how she accompanied them to visit different museums to learn about the history of their country. She also spoke about how the educational process, the curricula, and even the spirit among the teachers changed a lot from the way they used to be during her time in the past. Amina expressed her disappointment that History came to be an elective subject in high school, since for her it was a pillar of life. For Amina Hamza, History and Geography as school subjects were inseparable from each other, like the play and theater stage. The play was History, and the stage was Geography; one is not right without the other.