“Youth all over the Middle East have expressed their demand to have a better life for everybody, there are still demonstrations and uprisings in many places in the middle east, however, the same youth have expressed their demands differently, they choose education and understanding, in order to be ready for the change they are aiming for.” Hamze, from Dura, Palestine, a YaLa Young Leaders member, eloquently portrays the growing sentiment of youth in the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region.
Social media has changed the way that people interact, and identify with one another. Crowdfunding has changed the way people connect and contribute to causes they believe in, and when you bring the two together, you unleash a limitless power for anyone with an internet connection.
One area where technology has the power to change communities and individual lives is in the field of online education. The education system in the Middle East faces several problems, and needs to introduce modern techniques and methods to meet the growing needs and demands of society. The most significant obstacle education faces is the use of outdated methods of teaching, including strict adherence to the curriculum, and a lack of exciting extracurricular activities. The system fails to give students the space and time to think outside of the box, and be creative.
The future of education lies in E-Learning, more specifically, MOOCS, which stands for ‘Massive Open Online Course’. These platforms are available to everyone, and participants don’t need to pay tuition, or be in the same country or time-zone as the professor. Students from around the world can take classes and learn from some of the best professors in the field, without ever leaving their room. YaLa Young Leaders has capitalized on this demand for open access to higher education, and this was the incentive behind our opening of YLO@, a place where people can take classes from some of the best universities on the planet, on interesting topics such as conflict resolution, business strategy, and foreign languages.
Working upon the excitement and enthusiasm we received from participants in our online education program, and their desire to expand their horizons, we decided to open up the first online Israeli-Arab Institute for Peace and Good Governance. Here, 1000 students from across the region will be able to take lectures from peace practitioners from the Balkans, Rwanda, South Africa, Ireland and the Middle East– to hear firsthand accounts of how they made peace a reality in their respective conflict zones.
This Academy will be based on the idea of flexibility. Students can study at their own pace, and ultimately, pick their own time to study. What’s more important, is the sense community and shared values that these classes will inspire. The youth of the MENA region demand their voices be heard, and their voices will be heard, not merely through violence or aggression. 1000 students have decided to take positive steps towards a better future, and are willing to stand up and show their faith and commitment to the creation of better opportunities, for a society where they can actualize their full potential.
If this project sounds interesting to you, and you would like to learn how to contribute and donate, we have recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the creation of the Israeli-Arab Institute of Peace and Good Governance, in honor of Nelson Mandela. Please check out www.backpeace.com, the campaign is only running till December 11th, so please check it out now, and be sure to donate!
Yael and Thaer,
YaLa Young leaders