TODAY AROUND 20 PERCENT of Egypt's population are illiterate.............

AMONG THE poorest of Egypt's poor, the so-called ''zabbleen'' who scavenge through garbage to eke out a living in a Cairo slum struggle to keep their children in school.

Residents of the Ezbet al-NakhI shanty town earn a living from the rubbish they collect across the capital and sort in privately-owned recycling workshops.

But a school in the midst of the  unpaved muddy alleys in the mostly Coptic district of zabbaleen, meaning the garbage people in Arabic, has long been something of an oasis.

Set up 30 years ago by French nun Sister Emmanuelle, the Mahaba School - taking its name from the  Arabic world for love. - shields around 3,000 pupils from the outside world in a clean and friendly environment.

The walls of its classroom brightly decorated with pupils work, and football posts with a net stand proudly in the playground.

The Vatican once compared Sister Emmanuelle to Mother Teresa for her charitable work with slum dwellers.

The founder died 10 years ago at the age of 99, and the school is now run by Sister Demiana.

Sister Demiana recalls how she and Sister Emmanuelle went door to door urging parents to enrol their children in a bid to fight illiteracy.

Today around 20 percent of Egypt's population are illiterate, the state run CAPMAS statistics office said in a report released last year.

Mahaba and other slum-based education initiatives have found it especially hard to make ends meet in recent years, due to financial crisis in Egypt.

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on Humans and Honors and Struggles continues. [Agencies]


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