#Project Proposal: Online Higher Education for African Refugees in Cairo
(for knowledge of JCHEM projects see http://www.jc-hem.org/)
The aim of this proposal is to present a project in which different partners are called to action. As the project will present, we are calling on the Sacred Heart Catholic Church located in Sakakini Cairo to provide with the physical and logistical resources for the initiative. Secondly, we are addressing the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins and the American University in Cairo to provide academic staff.
For the fundraising we are adopting a multiple fundraising source strategy. For the running expenses and for 40% of students’ fees, we are presenting this project to the institutional sponsors of Sacred Heart Catholic Church initiative, such as the Catholic Relief Service and Misereor Germany. For the remaining 60% of students’ fees, we are going to fund raise along with them, also making use of online-based crowd funding platforms.
needs of sudanese students
Refugees from South Sudan and from Sudan have now been in Egypt for several years. Right now, we are witnessing the emerging of a generation of young people who were born in this land and have never set foot on the land they call home. Yet even if they have spent whole of their lifetime in this country, they are still very far from enjoying the rights that every other Egyptian citizen. Even the recent political and cultural changes that are re-shaping the life and the institutions of this country have not yet impacted on the life of the refugees, of whom it can be said that even though they do not live in a physical ghetto, they are secluded within the thick fence of discrimination, abuse and hostility. Not only the man of the street look at “the black ones” (note that in Arabic all black people are referred to as Sudanese, partly because the two words are semantically related, and partly because of a deep-rooted stigma that categorizes all blacks as descendants of old-time slaves), but the institutions too are at best unconcerned with the welfare of black Africans.
This social and institutional unwillingness and unreadiness to welcome African refugees at large, and Sudanese among them (the latter being the largest African group of migrants among all other African communities) is all the heaviest in the field of education, as children are par definition more vulnerable to social-system dysfunction. Being among the most vulnerable sectors of societies, children are victims of the carelessness of the Egyptian educational system.
Over the past years, several local and international organizations have tried to come to the rescue of the Sudanese community. Among them, church-affiliated centers have tried to respond to basic needs of health, security, asylum-seeking process and advocacy, and education.
The effort of these organizations has come to the establishment of formal and informal educational centers. While there are wide and remarkable differences between the initiatives endorsed by different churches and organizations, it is safe to say that all have focused on pre-schooling care, primary education and secondary education. To our knowledge, there is no meaningful initiative that has tried to enhance refugees’ tertiary education. Thus we can say that higher education remains a black spot in the vast array of initiatives that have been set up for the refugees.
The fact that African Refugees in Egypt are not given any meaningful assistance in accessing higher education should not be overlooked. A superficial analysis could advocate that in the end it is better for refugees to be forced to enter Egyptian universities, for the sake of integration. However, such an opinion fails to take into consideration some few factors, mainly (1) the fact that not all African refugees (and not all Sudanese, for that matters) are conversant with Arabic, (2) that not all refugees are intending to stay in Egypt or in the Middle East for the rest of their lives, and (3) that not to give to refugees the right to choose the medium of their higher education is one more instance of denying to them what is consider a right for others. While integration of refugees into Egyptian society is a laudable long-term objective, it makes no sense that it be forced on them.
Contemporary information and communication technology (ICT) can address the need that refugees have for a world-class quality education in English. The internet is becoming and increasingly rich platform of open source educational material. Massive online open courses (MOOC’s) are re-shaping the way we understand higher education and are likely to become in a very short future the main way in which tertiary education is pursued. Education is self-tailored and self-designed, and students are called to take ownership of their curriculum as well as their thinking capacities. Skills of collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking are becoming the fundations of 21st century education.
The Jesuit Common initiative “Higher Education at the Margins” (JC:HEM) brings this modern development of higher education to the life of refugees all over the world. The main idea is tremendously simple and revolutionary. It is all about giving to the underprivileged - the refugees who normally have no access to higher education - the chance to access online education by providing them with a physical space along with academic tutoring.
So far, JC:HEM has provided this opportunity to students living in refugee camps, such as Kakuma in Kenya, Dzeleka in Malawi. In the Middle East, it has run a centre in Aleppo - since before the beginning of the conflict - and in Amman, in both centers working with Iraqi, Palestinians, Somali and Sudanese refugees. This year JC:HEM has seen the graduation of its first bunch, and is planning to expand its presence in other countries such as Afghanistan, Burma, Chad and Thailand.
In brief, it all takes a computer lab connected to the internet, a whiteboard and some academic professionals on site, to accompany the students. Most of the instructional resources is provided by a network of Jesuit and Jesuit-connected universities in the States and elsewhere. This institutional network represents world-class quality higher education that works on the premises of mutual quality recognition. The Liberal Arts diploma is awarded by Regis University, Colorado.
As JCHEM is growing in experience, it is also developing an ever-richer network of academic and human resources. The list of the academic staff that have joined the project either by sharing their intellectual properties and their courses or by providing on-site tutoring as well as on-line instruction is growing steadily.
JC:HEM usually offers two kinds of projects. The first one is called Community Service Learning Track (CSLT), and it usually consists of a one-year course that is tailored on the needs of the community. In this course, the on-site component is stronger. In most of the JC:HEM centres, this course has provided courses for the enhancement of English proficiency and information-age literacy, along with 21st century skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication, social awareness and responsibility, global citizenship. Other courses or part of courses are offered in local languages (Kiswahili, French, Arabic so far), according to the needs of the group that is being targeted.
The second possibility that JC:HEM offers is a Diploma in Liberal Arts, awarded by Regis University (Colorado). While not being a BA, this three-year-long course is a valuable diploma made up of courses offered by different universities that are networked with Regis (thus there is no third-body accreditation, but Regis University endorses the final diploma). This second, more academic diploma is always offered in English and is mainly on-line, the insructors being international instructors who are partners to the initiatives.
See more at http://www.jc-hem.org/courses
Stage one of our project is to open a brand-new JC:HEM centre in Cairo, within the premises of the Catholic Church of Sacred Heart, in Abassiyya (the center also being known as Sakakini). We want to offer two CSLT courses: one for academic English and Information Literacy enhancement, for young learners (secondary school graduates), and the other for teachers who work in refugee community schools.
Upon completion of stage one, we plan to move to stage two by offering the possibility to enroll to the Liberal Art Diploma course (starting fall 2015).
This project is made of three stages. Stage one and two will address two different groups of people and would therefore take place over the same span of time. In stages one and two have the on-site instructional component is bigger than the online one. Stage three will be mainly online.
Stage one (Fall 2014-Spring 2015) aims at improving English proficiency, ICT literacy and pedagogical skills of teachers currently working in refugee community school. This part of the project works as professional development for school teachers, and targets a different audience from the one of stage 2.
Stage two (Fall 2014-Spring 2015) aims at enhancing English proficiency and ICT literacy of a group of 20 young people, secondary school graduates. The target level of proficiency would be enough for them to enroll in the Liberal Art diploma course.
Stage 3 (Fall 2015 onwards) will have 20 young learners enroll into the Liberal Art Diploma program offered by JC:HEM in collaboration with Regis University.
The intended beneficiaries of the project are young refugees who want to make a change in their lives and in their communities. While the refugee population in Cairo is increasingly large as it counts refugees from South Sudan, Sudan, Iraq, Palestine, Syria, Lybia and other countries form the Middle East and Africa, the project would like to start by giving this learning opportunity to some few refugees, twenty being the ceiling of each year new intake.
The project is under the coordination of a project manager, who answers directly to the Comboni Missionaries of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Sakakini Cairo.
The duties of this project coordinator are to oversee and implement the registration of students, and managing the communication between the students and JC:HEM. He will also coordinate and be the reference to volunteer teaching staff as well as to non-teaching staff.
As the project envisions that instruction be delivered both online and on-site, teaching staff will be both local and international. On-site teaching staff will include volunteer instructors from the American University of Cairo (AUC). Pedagogical tutorship and instructional assistance might be provided by students of the Graduate School of Education of AUC, also on a voluntary basis.
Recruitment and ongoing formation of the teaching staff is direct responsibility of the project coordinator, according to guidelines provided by JC:HEM.
Non teaching staff will include staff for the maintenance of the place, which is under the direct responsibility of Sacred Heart Church.
Computer lab is provided by Sacred Heart Church, which takes charge of maintenance and functionality of the same. The project will share expenses with the church, as indicated in the budget below.
The project will also provide a minimum transportation contribution to on-site teaching staff.
Our primary goals are
to provide African refugees with the opportunity of online higher education.
to enhance English proficiency among refugees, from which they can improve their life and career opportunities
to enrich the refugee communities with an exposure to high quality education
to give to refugees an experience of global responsible citizenship
to form young leaders that can impact positively on the life of refugee communities in Cairo
Monitoring and evaluation of the academic development will follow JC:HEM established practices and standards. The project administrator will be responsible for keeping JC:HEM informed all the way.
The administrative and financial monitoring and evaluation will fall entirely under the responsibility of the project coordinator, in the person of Rev. Diego Dalle Carbonare (email@example.com, +20.1094398917), who belongs to the Comboni Missionaries that are located in Sacred Heart Church in Sakakini, Cairo.
Periodical financial reports to donors will follow donors’ own request, upon acceptance of this proposal.
expenses of transport for staff
cleaning: can we do it ourselves?
volunteer workers, from GSE?
computers and desks
Possible externally originated challenges:
in Egypt and in the Sudan
Possible internally originated challenges:
staff retention and financial challenges
website & link
and jesuit netword
Participants in the program would be selected on the basis of three main criteria, namely academic performance in their formal schooling, refugee status and social record.
Admission will be granted by the Cairo project coordinator, in accordance with JCHEM accepted procedures. Academic record will be assessed through evidence of their secondary school grades, as well as a personal interview and English proficiency test. Refugee status and social record will be assessed also on the basis of on-site insitutional connection with well-established centers that are currently working with refugees here in Cairo, and who are partners to this initiative (for the first year, the Comboni Missionary educational centres and the Saint Andrew centre will be contacted).
The project coordinator will organize the admission process ensuring that equal access is guaranteed to different African communities. Diversity of gender, religion, nationality and language will represent an asset to the cultural richness of the educational project, and special care will be taken to ensure that the group be diversified.
While the main population we want to serve is made up of African refugees (who happen to be more connected to the Church-based network that partners the project), we do not preclude that other Refugees (such as Syrians and Iraqi) may also benefit from this initiative.
In line with our need assessment and with our belief that women are special agents of change, in the recruitment, special provision will be made so that at least half of the participants will be women. This could be achieved by strategic allocation of personal sponsorships.
The skills we want to enhance in the participants are:
information and ICT literacy
cooperative work skills
global citizenship awareness
business and entrepreneurship
Indicators that will assess the achievement of these objectives will be designed by professional academics, who are familiar with academic-standard English and learning skills.
We expect participants to experience and appreciate the values of multiculturality and diversity, promote inclusion and therefore build up a culture of peace. It is expected that participants will generate verbal and multimedia products, from which their communities will benefit.