by Bill Guariento on 7 August 2015
We were lucky enough to have a face-to-face meeting with Dr Nazmi yesterday. He introduced the Islamic University of Gaza to our students, showing us pictures of the campus – some of which is very beautiful, other parts of which are really damaged. The video clip of the deaf students arriving at IUG for the first-ever university course in Gaza was so moving, and it demonstrates so clearly IUG’s commitment to innovation that is of benefit to the local community.
The questions from the audience were excellent, and showed a willingness to engage with the EAST project which is heartening; one student asked: ‘How can we offer solutions, if we know that the materials in Gaza just aren’t available?’ Another asked: ‘When Gazans plan infrastructure, do they already factor in (at the design stage) the possibility that it will be destroyed?’ It’s only day 3 of our course, but already there is some deep thinking going on.
The IUG-UoG groupings have been formed. One thing that has surprised me has been the range of topic areas. Some seem to be siege-related, e.g. ‘the effects of electricity shortages on waste-water treatment’, but others will be relevant to very many built-up coastal areas around the world, e.g. ‘Water drainage and sea pollution’, and some are of completely universal impact, e.g.’Text-to-speech software’. I think it showed me that the siege is a big part of life in Gaza, but not the only part – the people of Gaza still have many other challenges to face.
The response of our students has been so positive: one said to me yesterday, ‘This is the most interesting project I have ever been involved in!’ (I told him that it was only day 2!). Another student apologised to Anna, saying ‘I’m sorry that we still haven’t been able to make contact with our partners in Gaza’ (we didn’t’ expect such a rush to get in touch!). I’m not sure if the positive response is due to Dr Nazmi’s galvanising presence in Glasgow, or due to the intrinsic interest generated by a cross-border project. I hope (and believe) that the interest will continue to grow over the next few days, as our students talk for the first time with their partners in Gaza.
We are hoping that our students will not be frightened to offer responses, even if they suspect that the responses may be of limited value in Gaza’s circumstances. After all, in a week from now, our students will receive their feedback from IUG, and can then go away and do some more research – as Dr Nazmi said, ‘It’s all about learning’. And (as one of our own students told me yesterday), ‘What makes this so special is that it’s all about the process, not just about the product’. I completely agree!
Finally, we told Dr Nazmi that it was wonderful to have him here….but that when we have our end-of-course party, we want him to be back in Gaza – we only want to see him on the screen!
We wonder what UoG students have taken away from the meeting with Dr Nazmi – please share your thoughts with us in the comments section!