By Huda Bouzloul
By Huda Bouzloul
Meknes – Many universities in Morocco are experiencing a series of ideological conflicts and intolerant behavior between groups of students with different political and cultural beliefs.
Abderahim El Hasnaoui, a student from the University of Meknes, was murdered by students from Annahj democrati Al Qaidi in Fez Dher Mehrez campus few months ago, bringing to light the necessity of securing and freeing the educational institutions from any fanatic tendencies to demonize the University and the role it can play in enlightening societies and consolidating the ties of positive and peaceful communication between all individuals, particularly students.
Within this frame, a body called English Committee for Dialogue and Communication from within the Organization of Students’ Renewal (A Moroccan civic organization working within Moroccan Universities to enhance cultural communication between students) is struggling to contribute to the shift from conflict to peace and knowledge exchange and cultivation.
ECDC was founded in 2006 in Meknes, Morocco, and since then, many activities have been conducted to diffuse the character of mutual listening and exchange between students despite their cultural differences, making of diversity a rich resource for effective communication and a paid ground for leadership and self-expression.
Morocco World News has recently interviewed Mr Abdelouahed Oulgout, the first ECDC leader and member-founder, to shed light on their initiative and encourage students in Moroccan Universities to try the same path.
MWN: Could you introduce yourself to the readers?
Abdelouahed Oulgout: My name is Abdelouahed Oulgout. I was born in 1984 in Tinejdad, a town within the province of Errachidia, Morocco. I work as a teacher of English in Boumalen Dades high school, and I have once been a member-founder of ECDC and its first leader. I am fond of writing both in English and Arabic, networking, public speaking, and software design. I also write Classic Arabic poetry and I am struggling to publish my first collection soon.
MWN: We are curious to know how the idea of English Committee for Dialogue and Communication came to existence.
Abdelouahed Oulgout: I must say that the idea and establishment of ECDC on the 28th April, 2006, was an outcome of a collaborative work between a group of highly dedicated students within the Organization of Students’ Renewal (publically known as OREMA) in which I was a member at that time. We held a meeting together to negotiate how we can serve our nation and contribute to common good inside Moroccan universities. We then agreed to carry out a weekly public speech to discuss any issue that matters to our community as pupils of Attawhid Wal-Islah (a legally Moroccan moderate Islamic movement working on Da’awah and education) with our classmates on the square inside the university.
MWN: Well, what was the goal behind creating ECDC?
Abdelouahed Oulgout: At first, our goal was too general to define. It was communicative in essence: to transfer and share any issue or value that matters to our social and cultural morals as Muslims as well as the just causes of our nation, particularly the Palestinian question. Yet, throughout experience, I found out that ECDC is also bridging the gap between students and establishing a positive rapport between individuals of different cultural orientations. Therefore, ECDC must put the establishment of a peaceful discourse among its highest priorities. In so doing, ECDC will be one of the first initiatives to bring the role of the university back into light.
MWN: Please tell us more about ECDC activities?
Abdelouahed Oulgout: Because its activities are in English, ECDC still targets two skills: speaking and writing. ECDC team holds a weekly public speech to communicate a variety of issues as I mentioned previously. We may also conduct a lecture as we did twice in 2008, deliver presentations, interviews, and seminars, only to mention but a few. As for writing, ECDC has a wall display to share students’ writings of different genres and different rubrics. We do also conduct a contest either in public speaking or a particular genre of writing to encourage students to speak, read, and write.
MWN: To ensure the survival of the committee, what are the points we should focus on?
Abdelouahed Oulgout: Thank you for asking this question. That’s one of the biggest challenges we are facing.
First, for ECDC to survive, we must keep and widen the channels of positive communication, online and offline, between all individuals. This is of paramount importance to discover new talents and give opportunity for a large community of students to shine, defeat their fears, and become leaders. Second is training: we cannot ensure our survival if we don’t sacrifice some of our time to share the seeds of leadership with the new generation. Third is documentation. If we don’t record what we do, we will never have a basis to reflect on our experience and improve our practices. Therefore, ECDC administrative team is required to take charge of reporting their activities to accumulate experience and collect data for further improvement. Last but not least, ECDC team should think forward to share the idea with other branches of OREMA wherever there is a university.
MWN: What are your expectations from this committee?
Abdelouahed Oulgout: I can’t cross my arms and wait for ECDC to meet my expectations. What I expect is what we should work for together to make: success, success and success.
MWN: What advice can you give to students to be successful and good citizens?
Abdelouahed Oulgout: I recommend you all to go beyond your course and take part in the experience of leadership. The knowledge you get from your professors inside classrooms is not sufficient; you should jump into the field to apply your thoughts and develop new skills that will enlighten your life later on after graduation.
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