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I still don’t know what was the point! February 26, 2008

Posted by mervatabuelkheir in Faculty Life.
1 comment so far

Prologue (Not the logic programming language :D)

I was notified by Mrs. Azza; the secretary of the faculty deputy for students affairs; that I’m a part of a team that is formed every year to go to a village and raise young people’s awareness of computers and their uses in our lives. I was told the trip should take place at the 2nd of February, then after the day passed she told me it was rescheduled at February the 16th. After that date passed as well she told me it was February the 20th. Luckily it was true this time. Here is my account for the events of the day.

Wednesday, February the 20th

  • 7:40, I arrived at the faculty building, no one was there yet, I drank Nescafe and hanged out on the front “yard”, waiting for somebody to show up.
  • 8:20, Mrs. Azza arrived; she told me how things should go: “They know you’re coming, and they are prepared, you’ll make small presentations about computing and its importance in our lives, then you’ll please write a report about the day and present it to me.” I asked where everybody else is and she said they’re coming.
  • 8:30, people started coming; Ahmed Elkhateeb, Ehab, and Sameh. Later on, Amira, Abd ElAzeez, and Islam came.
  • 9:00, after everybody who was supposed to come was here, we were told that the microbus which was supposed to pick us up was not allowed to enter campus, so we had to be “shipped” three by three in a private car to where the microbus waited outside.
  • About 9:30 or even after, we began moving towards our destination; a small village called “Demellash” near Belqas. We were told the distance took 30 minutes by the car. As soon as 15 minutes passed, Ahmed got a call; the summary of which was that we had to go back to the campus to pick up a team from the university media center!!!!!!!
  • Around 10:00, we arrived at the campus, waited for around 30 minutes for the “media team” to assemble and come with us. The microbus got crowded with 4 or 5 of that team. Now we’re around 13!!!!!
  • Around 10:30, we began moving again, arriving at the entry point of the village after about 45 minutes. The village roads were extremely muddy because of the rain, and at one point the car was close to turning up side down because it couldn’t get past a road bump that oversaw a deep hole in the ground (I’m dramatizing the whole incident to justify our entitlement to a compensation for work hazards!!)
  • Around 11:30, we finally arrived at our destination; the youth center for the village. The youth center was closed, the school located just beside it was almost empty I think. We stood there, like tourists in wonderland, and we kept making jokes about the situation. A couple of big guys were standing nearby; probably smoking Bango or something. Our guide; a native from the village, kept wandering around the nearby houses looking for someone who knows the principals of the youth center. Suddenly, the guys who were standing near us began to run in a rush, and we were caught off guard, then we knew why. A police officer showed up, asked the guide about our mission, and said he was sent by the governorate to keep us safe ( بيأمّن المنطقة:D) and I thought in my mind “How come we could be in danger here? It’s a village whose residents should be the epitome of Egyptian hospitality, not hostility!!” but apparently I was wrong somehow.
  • Around 11:45, the principals in the nearby school “received” us. We entered the headmaster’s room and were offered tea. I kept looking around, hundreds of impressions coming to my mind. How come some people here are willing to get an education in this isolated place? Why? People here are not forgotten, they get periodical instructions and inspections from the regional educational board. So the ministry knows they exist, but the school conditions makes you want to cry out loud. Anyway, we were finally shipped 15 minutes later to the youth center after they got someone to open it for us. We sat in a gloomy room, waiting for someone to tell us why the hell are we here if no one knows we’re coming and no one cares!!!
  • Around 12:00, we were shipped again to the “library” room in the youth center. The place they call the library has a 50 years old TV, some thin meaningless books that are probably left-outs from people who don’t want them anymore, and a couple of tables. It was a bit cozy though. A woman (presumably the library employee or something) arrived and kept asking us: “Are you a medical mission?” We said no, and wondered why did they get the impression we were doctors, and then we concluded that since some people referred to us as doctors (being seeds of faculty doctors and all!!!) the people of the village assumed we were medical doctors :D. That would have made much more sense to them since they could use our services. But academic doctors?!! What good are we for?!! Anyway, we explained to the lady why we are here, and she was pursing her lips in contempt. “Why didn’t anyone tell us you were coming?” she said. I concluded that she was at home; safely cooking or doing whatever housework, and they grabbed her to come see what’s going on. She’s supposed to be an employee who works at the center everyday and should be there everyday. But since people here don’t give a damn about culture she can stay home and officially she’s at work or something.
  • Around 1:00, they collected some of the school students to come and sit in the library to watch us explain to them how computers are good for them. We agreed that Ahmed would make the presentation, he did, and students knew almost every thing he was talking about!!! I couldn’t stop smiling as I kept listening to the students repeat in one voice after Ahmed whatever he said. It reminded me of my school days. I remembered how enthusiastic I used to feel about things, about knowing stuff and acquiring new information. I said to myself “These young students are not getting the most prestigious education, but some of them sure want to learn and love to learn. And they’re getting their education in the middle of no where; they walk through the mud to their school, and their parents struggle to provide them with the necessary stationary although they’re probably poor, that sure accounts to something deeply meaningful to them; even if they don’t realize it yet.” I remember how I felt when I was young; how the education atmosphere provided me with a sense of warmth and security, and also with a sense of responsibility. I wish these little boys and girls are feeling the same way, or at least a portion of them.
  • We wrapped it up at around 1:30, and after the team of the “university media center” made some “trivial” meetings with some students and teachers, we collected our things and prepared to leave. The same excruciating trip to head out of the village was made, and for the second time we were almost killed :D. We finally made it to the city, thanking Allah that we didn’t have to go through this trip on a daily basis. But I kept wondering about university students who lived in that village, how do they make it to the city everyday? I don’t have a clue.

Epilogue

I have wasted around five hours of my time (from 7:40 to 1:00, I excluded the time that was actually used for the presentation and the trip back to the city) for no apparent reason. I didn’t raise any awareness, I wanted to talk to the children but the media center people with us who didn’t care and wanted to go home would have killed me if I made them stay any longer. They have a point though; there was no planning or anything, and it was a very stupid charade that was conducted for the benefit of the university image as an institute that contributes to the community. I’m sorry to say this, but I know the report about the trip will come up to be an “excellent” account of the “awareness” we developed in these young helpless kids. This is not how things should be! It should not be about an image, it should be about a real and tangible benefit! And what the hell do these people need with a youth center?!!!!! The “expenses” that go to principals in that youth center should go to the school to make better conditions for real education. When that’s settled, we can think of recreational activities for people who can hardly afford for the basic needs in life, let alone go play some ping pong and “read” books beyond their needs!

On the good side, I had some good laughs, it’s an irony that I could laugh in such a sarcastic situation, but I did and so did my colleagues.