A promising partnership between UCLy and the Anaphora Institute in Egypt
In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, the issues of peace, justice and development call for new skills for Egyptians. These can be acquired through training partnerships, particularly with UCLy.
For all the countries concerned, the Arab Spring revealed the desire of its stakeholders to be the masters of their own destiny. Even though this wave of popular protest on Cairo’s Tahrir Square consequently triggered a political crisis brought by the election and the deposition of President Morsi. These events illustrate the difficulty of having to choose between political models, the importance of value systems (particularly religion), economic issues and the role of the army in such context.
Nevertheless, Egypt is undergoing a change, a drastic one we might say, with the arrival of new stakeholders and the emergence of a multifaceted, civil society. All these stakeholders strive to make society evolve, drawing up projects and leading concrete on-site activities in villages and communities. Many of them need to strengthen their skills and competence to implement the activities, services and projects which society urgently needs.
Partnerships between academic training centres
This adventure was first born out of a partnership between Churches, then between academic training centres. The partnership is established between the Anaphora Institute (AI), founded within the Anaphora retreat centre by Bishop Thomas, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of the Diocese Al Qusiyah and El Mir in Upper Egypt, and the Lyon Catholic University via two of its institutes, the CIEDEL (International Centre for Local Development Studies) and the IDHL (the Human Rights Institute of Lyon.)
“Preparing the emergence of a civil society in Egypt”
Bishop Thomas (or Amba Thomas) is a leading figure in the Egyptian Coptic Orthodoxe Chruch and especially an actor of change in his diocese of Upper Egypt, characterised by a population that is both Christian and Muslim, where he works relentlessly for human development in its spiritual, social or economic form. According to Amba Thomas, actors of change are defined as men or women of good will, but above all, associations and other structures searching to strengthen their skills to “become the leaders which Egypt needs in these troubled times”. The Anaphora Institute endeavours to impart this knowledge, know-how and entrepreneurial skills.
A tailored training course
The partnership began in autumn 2011 with the exchanges between the IDHL and the CIEDEL, followed by a visit to Egypt of the institute directors in January 2012. A training course in Local Development (DL) and Human Rights (DH) was consequently developed in response to the expressed needs.
The course’s multidisciplinary aspect aims at highlighting the connection between local development and human rights. “Local development” promotes dynamics at the level of territories in the economic, social, rural, urban, public and private sectors, and provides the opportunity of putting theories into practice by implementing human rights in the service of communities. The “human rights” aspect, on the other hand, analyses local development action from an ethical point of view and strengthens its impact by placing it in a legal context.
The training course prepares for a UCLy University Diploma combining academic, professional and operational skills to “understand and take action”.
The course lasts for 23 weeks and is composed of modules as well as personal projects.
The first module was taught in December 2012. The first batch of 28 students was mainly composed of Coptic Orthodox stakeholders of Amba Thomas’ diocese. Participants attended diverse modules, such as: “Analysis of leading figures”, “Development of local economy”, “Capitalisation on practices”, “Project, HR and budget management”, but also “International humanitarian law”, “Minority rights”, “Family rights”, “Children’s rights”, etc. Courses ended in July 2014. A 2nd batch was created in March 2014 composed of 24 participants, 50% of which were women, originating from Cairo and the region of Alexandria as well as Upper Egypt. A 3rd batch is planned for the last trimester of 2014.
In order to make the training course as beneficial as possible, on-site projects have been introduced to help participants with their work and adapt raining courses to current needs. Outside speakers are invited to take part in various modules and/or on-site visits are organised.
Towards a transfer of skills
Logistically speaking, this course is particularly challenging. Language is first of all a difficulty since courses are taught in English or French, with simultaneous translation. This affects to some extent fluency and responsiveness, which are particularly important for courses addressed to adults. However other teaching methods (work in small groups, different forms of expression, etc.) and the participants’ strong motivation ensure good communication.
In addition, the country’s educational culture is typically based on repetition and theory, the new course approach requires thus extensive pedagogy to ensure that participants and future trainers acquire new learning methods.
Finally, the purpose of such a project is to integrate the entire training course within the programmes of the Anaphora Institute itself.
The knowledge acquired during the course will therefore be transferred to Egyptian trainers and lecturers. Future tutors have already been chosen; they will be participants of the course who benefit from an adapted on-site experience and possess the skills and motivation to teach. A training course has been opened this summer to facilitate the transition. Finally, a key figure who attended the CIEDEL programme in 2012–2013 will be attributed the important managerial role in the Institute.
All of these initiatives are implemented in order to help Egypt decide of its own future by acquiring the necessary skills and change according to Amba Thomas’ vision. “Inch Allah”, as the Egyptians, both Christians and Muslims, say.