Hikmat Metwalli is an Egyptian woman pioneer of education. She worked as a teacher, school principal, inspector, and finally a department head at the education directorate. She graduated from the Department of Geography, at the Faculty of Arts, before joining the Higher Institute for Education to train as a teacher. In this interview, Hikmat shared her journey with education, and the several positions she held during her teaching career.
Hikmat grew up with her siblings, her father -Mohamad Metwalli al-Sehimi- and her mother -Aisha Mohamed Munib Rasul Agha. Hikmat described her father as an enlightened man, keen on his daughters’ education. He was the mayor of his hometown “Sehim,” in al-Gharbia governorate, but left it to work in England in the trading business. Hikmat’s mother was originally from al-Khalil region in Palestine. She met her husband when she was on a visit to Egypt to see one of her aunts. Hikmat recalled that her mother took good care of her, and made sure to get to know her friends. Hikmat’s father wanted his daughters to receive their education in England, but the mother could not bear the weather, and decided to return to Egypt with the girls. She refused to leave them to live abroad, but she left the boys to continue their education in England.
Hikmat attended a kindergarten in Moharram Bey district, in Alexandria, and completed five years of primary school at Moharram Bey Primary School, where she was taught by a number of British teachers. She recounted that her Arabic teacher, Sheikh Tolba, noticed her distinction, and helped her study. He even told her father that she had a great future. Hikmat recalled receiving a large Ottoman edition of the Quran as a reward from the school for learning the Amma section of the Quran when she was in the first grade.
Upon completing primary school, Hikmat enrolled in Alexandria’s first secondary class for girls, and earned her certificate of competence after three years. She recalled that there were no high schools for girls in Alexandria at the time, but this one class was opened at Princess Faiza School, which was a primary school. Hikmat then moved with her family to Cairo, where she attended al-Saniya Secondary School for two years until she earned her high-school certificate from the science division. Her desire was to enroll in the Faculty of Science, but she gave it up, in order to continue studying with her close friend Rasmeya. Hikmat attended the Department of Geography, at the Faculty of Arts, and upon her graduation joined the Higher Institute for Education in Zamalek to qualify to teach. She studied for two years at the institute, which later became the College of Girls. Hikmat participated in the concerts and exhibitions held at the institute, and recalled the attention she received from her professors for her academic achievements. She graduated second in her class, and was later surprised to receive an invitation to meet the king, with the other top students.
Hikmat was appointed to teach at Assiut School for Girls, which was a primary school with newly established secondary classes. She worked there for a year, and resided at the school’s boarding division with two English language teachers and a philosophy teacher, who were all fresh graduates of the same graduating class. They taught the secondary stage classes, and were the first women university graduates to teach at the school.
Upon returning to Cairo, Hikmat worked at Heliopolis Secondary School for Girls, with the Principal Ms. Fayqa Saudi, who was succeeded by Ms. Dawlat al-Sadr. She then worked at Princess Fawzia School, with the Principal Ms. Asmaa al-Zaini, before being promoted to serve as the Social Science Inspector for al-Sahel and Shubra, in northern Cairo. Hikmat continued to climb up the career ladder, until she became the Head of the Preparatory Stage at the education directorate. She resigned in 1975, two years before she was due to retire.
Hikmat received a certificate of excellence in management from the Socialist Union, and a certificate of appreciation from the Ministry of Education, for her efforts and achievements in education. She was exceptionally proud of the recognition she received from the Socialist Union because for her it represented the spirit of the people. Hikmat was proud of her devotion to her work, her regard for her students’ self-esteem, and her concern for their social and personal conditions. She was also proud to be recognized among her colleagues as a fair person, who gave everyone their due right without them having to demand it, and often times without them even knowing it. For Hikmat, fairness and justice were the leading factors driving her throughout her life, which kept her at bay from any problems.