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The International Association of Women’s Museums

Rasmeya Ali Eissa

( 1916 - 2006 )
Interview date
1st of August, 2004

Rasmeya Ali Eissa

School Principal

Rasmeya Ali Eissa is a pioneer of education. She graduated from the Department of Geography, at the Faculty of Arts in 1940, before attending the Institute for Education. She earned a master’s degree from Alexandria University, then worked at the Girls’ College in Alexandria. She was appointed as the principal of St. Andrew’s School, and Princess Fawzia School. Rasmeya cofounded a league for the men and women university graduates working as teachers, given the absence of a syndicate, and served as a board member of the Teachers Syndicate when established in 1951.

Rasmeya grew up in al-Fayoum governorate, which was her father’s hometown, whereas her mother was originally from Alexandria. When she was eight years old, her mother passed away, and her maternal grandmother came to al-Fayoum to live with her. Rasmeya’s grandmother stayed with her until she completed her primary education at al-Muhammadiyah School, and graduated top of her class. The school principal at the time was the pioneer Nabawia Musa. Rasmeya managed to convince her father to allow her to complete her high school education. She attended the boarding division of the Girls’ College in Cairo for only two weeks, before deciding to transfer since she did not feel comfortable at the boarding school. Rasmeya traveled to live with her grandmother in Alexandria, where she attended Princess Faiza School. Rasmeya recalled that this was the first secondary school to be established for girls, and that she enrolled in it on the year of its inauguration.

Rasmeya wanted to join the science division to qualify for the Faculty of Medicine, in order to find a cure for the respiratory disease that killed her mother. However, her father refused the idea, so she joined the literature division. She earned her high school diploma, and again graduated top of her class. Among her schoolmates, Rasmeya recalled her friend, the poet Rawhiya al-Qallini, whose talent emerged in school. Rawhiya wrote her first poems to Rasmeya, and read them to the Arabic language teacher, who predicted that she would become a famous poet. At school, Rasmeya developed a keen interest in reading, and read many novels of world literature. She also enjoyed tennis and acting. When Rasmeya finished high school, her father refused to enroll her in the university. As a result, she went on a hunger strike until he agreed. The family moved to Cairo, and her father rented a house in Zamalek so that Rasmeya would attend the Faculty of Arts.

Rasmeya graduated from the Department of Geography at the Faculty of Arts in 1940, and her father died the same year. She then attended the Institute for Education, where she studied for two years to qualify for a career in teaching. Upon her graduation in 1942, Rasmeya was assigned to work in Helwan, but requested to be transferred to Alexandria, where she worked at the Girls’ College with a British principal. Rasmeya described the principal as fair, meticulous, and supportive of every student at the school, and added that she learned a lot from her regarding the school management. The principal also helped Rasmeya while she was studying to earn her master’s degree from Alexandria University. Her thesis was in the English language, and studied the Greek community in the city of Alexandria. Rasmeya taught at the Girls’ College for seven years, after which she became the school’s Vice Principal.

Towards the end of 1955, Rasmeya was selected to take over as principal at St. Andrew’s School after its nationalization. She worked there for five years, during which she was keen to maintain the system followed before the nationalization, but also introduced some changes to the curricula to upgrade the level of Arabic language education, and the national studies courses. She also introduced extracurricular activities, and worked to increase the number of Egyptian students at the school, besides adding three new buildings to the school premises. Rasmeya recalled that many of the girls at school won sports tournaments. Rasmeya married Dr. Abd al-Hamid Lutfi in 1951, and had to leave St. Andrew’s School to travel with him to Cairo, where he worked at Ain Shams University. He later became the Head of the Sociology Department, at the Faculty of Arts, Ain Shams University.

In Cairo, Rasmeya worked at the New Helmeya School. She recounted that she did not feel comfortable living in Cairo at all, and that she tried hard to be transferred back to Alexandria, but to no avail since there were no vacancies there. When she was offered to be transferred to Damanhur instead, she immediately agreed. Rasmeya returned to live in Alexandria, and commuted daily by train to the city of Damanhur, where she worked for four years. She was later appointed as a Department Chief, and was able to introduce several changes and new ideas to the schools in Damanhur. Rasmeya later served as the principal of Princess Faiza Secondary School in Alexandria, where she had studied during high school. She was proud to return to her school as its principal, and established a sports club and playgrounds inside the school premises. She turned down a number of promotions so she would not have to leave the school, where she remained until she became a General Manager, before she retired.

Rasmeya talked about her political activism, and her participation in the protests against the British occupation. She attended the meetings of al-Wafd Party, and took part in the strike organized by the university students in the late 1930s. Rasmeya was also the Head of the Youth Committee at the Christian Youth Organization, and a member of the Young Muslim Women’s Association. She served as a board member of the League for Social Reform, to which the Girl’s Institute for Social Service was affiliated, in addition to serving as the Chairperson of the Girls Welfare Association, which included a school that provided underprivileged girls with food, clothing, and all their other needs.

Rasmeya recounted that since there was no syndicate for teachers, she cofounded with her colleagues a league for the men and women university graduates working as teachers, and took over as the league’s Vice President. She held several meetings with Dr. Taha Hussein to demand the establishment of a syndicate, and as soon as he assumed the position as the Minister of Education, the syndicate was established in 1951. However, its operations ceased following the revolution, but when Dr. Kamal al-Din Hussein became Minister of Education, he inaugurated the Teacher’s Syndicate, and served as its President. Rasmeya ran for the syndicate’s elections, won the majority of votes, and became a member of its board in Alexandria. After moving to Cairo, Rasmeya was elected to the syndicate, and appointed as the President of the Student Union in Southern Cairo. She organized several trips and sports activities for the students.

Based on her long experience in the field of education, Rasmeya believed that the school depended on the principal, and her capacity to manage the school, with respect and discipline. For Rasmeya, the principal should make the teachers feel like one family, address their concerns and problems, and cooperate with them to get the work done, which was the vision she put in practice throughout her entire career.

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