Initiated by the Dutch SEKEM Friends Association, Oxfam Novib (Netherlands) funded travel and organizational costs for 30 teachers, who travelled to Egypt to support the Heliopolis University (HU) and SEKEM. They were willing to deliver workshops and short courses without receiving a fee. These teachers are associated with colleges and universities in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and the United Kingdom. Many of the Dutch teachers are employed at Zuyd University for Applied Science in Maastricht, which is developing a close collaboration with Heliopolis University.
For one week, five members of the Faculty of International Business and Communication (IBC) of Zuyd University visited SEKEM and Heliopolis University, gave lectures, shared experiences and laid down to base for further cooperation.
“I believe that international partnerships between universities can contribute greatly to an increased global mindedness of students and staff”, said Jeanette Oostijen, Dean of the IBC Faculty of Zuyd University.
“The Egyptian students are motivated and eager to learn”
First, the five teachers from the Netherlands attended lectures as co-teachers together with the HU trainers. “Although most students do not speak English at a high level, they compensated this with their efforts”, Nivard Beumers, English lecturer commented. “It was very nice for me to see how the Egyptian students were motivated and eager to learn. I gained a lot of inspiration for my own classes in the Netherlands”, he tells.
The Arabic teacher Jana de Graef from Zuyd University entered into a dialogue with the HU students about the Arabic language and the European culture. According to her the smooth communication became an inevitable result for the ongoing globalization and the growing European-Arab relations. Hence, an online meeting was organized between HU students and students of OTC, “which certainly proved worth repeating”, Jana de Graef remarked.
Also business-wise discussions took place. Mohamed Khalil, Head of International Trade Management Research Center at Zuyd, focuses on the expansion of Technology Based Dutch Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to emerging markets. “The question for us is where in SEKEM’s value chain, Technology Based Dutch SMEs can add value and contribute to overcome the challenges of international marketing regarding all its aspects”, Mohamed Khalil revealed. In regards to this topic, he attended meetings with his counterparts from the HU staff and managers of SEKEMs companies. “This was inspiring for collaboration and gives the required link between business and universities”, he commented.
Impressed by SEKEMs Cultural Life
The five teachers also visited the SEKEM Schools and attended music and eurythmy classes, which inspired them to think about eventually integrating a Core Program at Zuyd University as well. “One of the thoughts kept popping into my head is: How art could be integrated in Dutch institutes for higher education”, said Sinnika Kroese, lecturer from the Applied Sciences Department at Zuyd, who gave classes on Organizational Behavior to SEKEMs HR staff.
Obviously, the teachers were inspired by SEKEMs holistic mission, which they actively experienced during their visit. Sinnika Kroese resumed her team’s feelings and impressions of the visit by telling: “We had the pleasure of spending a week in the middle of fields with chamomile, more piano’s than I have ever seen in any educational institute outside of an Academy of Music and inspiring people all around. The best experiences are the ones that make you question your own beliefs. My trip to Heliopolis and SEKEM was one of those experiences.”
Pictures: © Zuyd University