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Two inspirational Principals taking Cairo to new heights

26 January

Gina El Zoheiry and Maija Lamu are two incredible franchisees running in the Cairo area of Egypt. In 2013, they won Franchisee of the year for their incredible work with children and adults in Egypt, and since then they have just blossomed, with a huge reputation throughout the country.

Both Gina and Maija are passionate about education and developing children who are confident, creative and have exceptional communication skills. Cairo is therefore buzzing with their influence on the creative arts.

They have been with the Academy over 10 years now and we asked them a few questions about their success and development.

What did you do before you became a Principal of the Helen O'Grady Drama Academy?

Gina started her career in marketing with Procter and Gamble Egypt and moved later to work with P&G in Europe where she finished her post-graduate studies. Since she loves teaching, she started teaching marketing management to university students in Cairo. It made her discover her passion was also to teach young children so she obtained a diploma in child psychology to help her deal with children with proficiency. 

Maija is originally from Finland but has been living in Egypt since 1998. She started her career as professional tennis player which gave her the opportunity to live among different cultures from all over the world. She used to coach children and adults in which she discovered her passion and edge in developing children. She accordingly started her studies in Education and graduated with a pedagogic degree for the Montessori Education International as director of early childhood. While obtaining her diploma for teaching Finnish language and culture through drama, literature, grammar and total physical-response method in the University of Helsinki, Finland, she started to realize how drama can have a huge impact in one's self-development. Luckily Gina found the Helen O'Grady Drama Academy and they became partners with a mission to share their passion in developing children.  

How did you hear about the Helen O'Grady Drama Academy?

Gina found Helen O'Grady Drama Academy through online research and went to visit Duncan Rice and Gavin Pollock, Directors of Helen O'Grady Africa,  at the Head Office in Cape Town to see for herself what she had learnt online. 

What made you decide to become a franchisee?

The academy offers such unique curriculum and programme. It totally fulfills all the aims, goals and skills we would like to pass on to the children to help each one of them to succeed in life.
What aspects of the Principal training were especially beneficial to you?

Seeing the classes in action and joining them was definitely one of the most  beneficial experiences of the training! 

What month and year did you start your first Academy?

March 2008

What obstacles have you overcome to start a Helen O'Grady Drama Academy, if any?

One of the challenges we have had, was educating the parents of the benefits of drama. In the Egyptian culture, drama means to many parents becoming an actor/actress and some of them saw it as wasted time. The concept was quite new to many parents 10 years ago but now there is so much more awareness. Also, hiring and managing trustable, committed teachers is not always easy.

Can you tell us what was your greatest achievement since starting as a Franchisee?

Gina and Maija were chosen the Franchisees of the Year- Africa on 2011 

If you can give a new Principal some words of advice when they start out, what would you suggest?

Always do your best with the highest quality so you create amazing word of mouth reputation. Keep going, never give up.

How many people on your staff?

8 teachers and one administration staff

How many children attend each week?


What advice would you pass on to a new franchisee as regards to staff?

Choose teachers that share the same passion of education in children, train them well and keep on developing them.

Why do you believe drama is important for children?

Helen O'Grady Drama Programme completes 4/5 main aspects of wellness!: physical, emotional, social and intellectual. That is quite amazing, isn't it? Through our programme, the students become more well-rounded, positive, peaceful, compassionate, gaining confidence in themselves and their abilities. Developmental drama has life-long benefits and open all doors to one's future.  

Would you like to mention anything else about your time with the Helen O'Grady Drama Academy?

We are so lucky to be part of the international Helen O'Grady family! Africa has an amazing director and principals who all share the same passion for educating children through Africa. The network we have is amazing and the way we share ideas, thoughts and develop each others, is just inspiring. 




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Top quote

"Well done for an entertaining show on Sunday morning ! Thank you so much for giving the little ones the confidence to be comfortable with their surroundings. And most importantly with themselves …"

- Parent - Cape Town, South Africa