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A Student's Perspective - University Improvement

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Community Workshop, Wednesday 2 January 2013

MEPI - HAF Partnership
University Hassan II, Mohammedia

Written by Safae Lacheheb, Student Leader

This is the third meeting for the training of the students, it was a very long day, we started the preparation early, we were at the office at 9 o’ clock, we finished the final touches, printed the questionnaires in both Arabic and French, and sat together to discuss the progress and steps of the training in details.  We shared tasks, we read back the remarks of the participants from last week, we prepared the conference room for the event, installed the data show, removed tables and put the chairs in a form of a circle. The scheduled start-time for the training was 11:45, but as usual we had very few people at the beginning, so we had to wait until 12:25. Then we decided to ask people to introduce themselves so they don’t get impatient from waiting for the others, when we reached a number of 33 persons we decided to start the presentation, it was 12:40. We had the same participants from last time except for four new students, I recognized one of them who is a first year student and who appeared to me very interested. We ended with a count of 40 students.

Like it’s tradition in every meeting, we started by introducing ourselves, Younes Khitouch, Younes Jarid, Fatima Zahra, Mohamed Chraibi, Alex Stein, and myself.  Then Dr Azul explained to the participants the objectives behind all the trainings we’re doing and talk about our coming projects, I did the translation. People reacted by asking a number of question, one foreign student who is French speaking asked about how could he contribute in the Moroccan community knowing that he didn’t speak the language of the community, Alex explained to him that she was in the same situation and that she’s not a fluent Arabic speaker, but she managed to get involved with the community.

Than Fatima Zahra who was in charge of the animation (PowerPoint) this time, presented the results from the previous training.  She explained that the activity of last week has led to 9 major priorities, and that our team worked again on the maps and priorities to do a larger comparison of the top 3 priorities of each group, which gave us at the end a total of 19 priority projects. After she had the approval of the participants about the change of the method, she presented the 19 items in Arabic and French, and explained that they as community should reach a consensus about the main important projects for them, she made it clear that this time we don’t work as groups and the vote is individual, that each one should give his or her opinion.

Fatima Zahra invited the participants to talk about each item and say what it does mean to each one of them, while the rest of us were taking notes of the discussion.   Considering the time constraint, Younes Khitouch was in charge of the microphone, to limit the time of each intervention, to make sure that everyone participated, and to limit the number of interventions at three or four maximum per item. The students were exited to talk about their dreams.  I found the discussion and later the debate about certain points very interesting. We listened to all the definitions they have given and found the common points between them and asked them if they agree on a common definition for each item.

They started talking about the transparency and liberty of expression, the discussion coincided with a student protest outside the room (protesting about the exam dates), which push some participants to comment that the freedom of expression already exists in the faculty, and it is a right that is guaranteed. They agreed on the definition of transparency as the clarity and the free access to the information, and the absence of any barrier between the administration and the students.

During the discussion, the participants were asked to find any possible combination between the priorities which seem similar to them, so they proposed that the access to masters by merit is a main element of transparency.

Then they talked about the good organization, meaning the respect of the rules of the faculty by everyone, and that it is a shared responsibility between the students, the professors, and the administrative personnel. They proposed that increasing of administrative personnel, the change of university system, as well as the solution for overcrowding constitute elements of the good organization.

On the other hand, they wished for a campus that includes a good cafeteria, a medical center, language center, sports arena, electronic library, center for information and orientation of students. For the majority of the students, if the campus was provided the problems of transportation will be automatically resolved, also this will allow students to reduce their expenses (save the cost of transportation, meals, and rental) specially for foreign students.

After that they talked about the problem of professors being late and said that the solution for it is to have strict rules for the respect of time by everyone, and for the competency of the professors some participants thought that it is up to the student to do an extra effort in their learning process because they’re university students and are supposed to be researchers.

When we came to discuss partnership between the university and companies, the students complained about the difficulty of finding internships, they proposed that the university should guarantee employment for the brightest students.

Concerning scholarships it was an important topic for the students, some asked for generalization of the scholarship on all the students, and some considered that scholarship granting is a problem of discrimination and lack of transparency and that it is going to people who don’t deserve it.  However all of the participants refused to combine the priority of scholarship with any of the other priorities and considered it as a separate project.

Last but not least, the participants discussed good governance, which was the most commented topic, and the one that generated the longest debate, one participant denounced the absence of internal audit system in the faculty, and the majority agreed that good governance is a title that encompasses almost everything that has been said.

As we reached the step of voting for the 19 items that were compressed to 9 final items, we had already exceeded the time expected for the meeting, so we asked the participants if they’re willing to stay until they finish the voting, and all of them agreed. At this point we had 39 people in the room (22 men and 17 women), it was the final number I counted, the number changed because people were coming in and coming out.  Since we were late we decided to serve food at the end.

Then Dr. Azul asked the participants to get up, change places and mix with each other and explained that it is necessary to not be influenced by a friend’s opinion or a « neighbor’s » opinion. In the same time, I used a flipchart to write down the priorities that were combined and all the final results.

Fatima Zahra asked the participants to vote each priority by standing up, each participant had the right to vote only one time, the good governance had the highest number of votes by 15 person, which was not a majority (majority must be 21 person). So we did the vote again, but this time in a different way, each participant had the right to vote as many times as he wishes, again good governance had the highest score by far (40 person : all of the participants voted for the good governance).

We distributed the questionnaires and asked the participants to mark their names on a list if they’re interested and ready to visit the local communities. That’s when the meeting ended, it was 15:30.

My impression of this particular meeting was very positive, this was the most interesting and exciting part for me so far, it was an opened and free discussion, everyone respected others opinion, it was a good debate. The event was fully successful in my point of view, and the voting this time was authentic and effective. I thought the team work was better this time, we were sharing and making sure that everyone has the same information, no decision was taken individually this time, I felt we were a lot more prepared. If I have to evaluate my own performance I would say that I did pretty well, I guess what I need to learn more is how to improvise and have a quick reaction in a new situation; I think that will come with experience. I noticed only one negative thing in the meeting is that the discussion took a very long time, we should work more on time management.

 

This report describes HAF's activities at Hassan II University as part of a Middle East Partnership Initiative Program (MEPI), a program of the US State Department.

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