Happy New Year, may it be a wonderfully growing experience for you. It has begun that way for me at the third MEPI training that took place in the auditorium of the University of Hassan II in Mohammadia. The five Student Interns conducted the entire training. Alexandra Stein, HAF Country Director, and I supervised this dynamic group from the sidelines. It was great. This time the primary object of the training was to have a wholistic training that would be individually inclusive of each and every student and their opinions in a debate forum. The group contained forty young minds. As such, the Student Interns (SI) led the trainees to define, combine (where possible), and prioritize each of the 19 projects they had agreed to in their nine tables the week before.
This time instead of tables the chairs were placed on one large circle and the training began with each trainee introducing her/himself. Mohammed, Safae, Tima, and the two Younes’, the five SI, introduced themselves. I then took the floor for a few minutes. I had the trainees all stand up, asked them to stretch, and then requested that they move and sit next to someone they did not know. They complied with some hesitation and prodding. It was interesting to me that there was hesitation since in the US, my students would comply without hesitating. I later asked the SI about that and they said that here groups tend to bond almost like family and hate to be parted when they are in group.
I went on to express the importance of the training in terms of community involvement, self-growth, familial benefit, as well as the benefit to the university and the individual communes with which they would be working, and even the entire nation. Additionally I told them that once they prioritized their project, we would attempt to work with the administration of the University to secure funding for their priorities.
Again as with the last two trainings, a few students had trickled in at the appointed hour, 11:45, but the room was not completely full of students until well after 12:25 or so. However we began the individual introductions when a little more than half of the students were present. I was overjoyed to see that the majority of the students present this time where students from the past two trainings –we have established our group. It was also great to see the faces of 3 members of the broader Mohammedia community who had come back for the session.
Tima had made a PowerPoint of the nine projects chosen last time through the pair-wise process; with two priorities, and of the other ten projects. Each item was presented and discussed within the group. There was enthusiastic discussion on each of the 19 item. During the process of defining each project in narrow and agreed-upon terms, some were combined ending with a total of eight projects. And finally votes were taken to prioritize the eight items.
Of great interest to me was the difference in the voting for priorities when then trainees were only allowed to vote once per the eight items and when they were allowed to vote for each item. The difference was quite dramatic. For example, in the first round of voting the “Good Governance” received 15 votes and 40 votes in the second round! In both instances it was the top project. The same was not true for the other priorities which also had quite different votes, but were ranked differently. In the first vote the “Campus” was the second project priority with fourteen votes, while in the second vote it only received thirteen votes coming in a distant fifth. In second place in the second round of voting was “Partnership between the university and companies for recruitment,” with 25 votes and which had only received one vote in the prior vote!
Once the priorities were set, the trainees were to sign up for training and working with the Communes, then snacks and evaluations were then distributed. It was decided to hold future trainings in smaller groups dedicated to working with the Communes.
By telephone all the attending trainees were polled and thirty trainees agreed to attend the next training on 7 January, which was postponed due to student protests.