Capacity Building Workshop
Cities of Learning
January, 2012
Francais عربي

In This issue

Amman learning city
AEF News
Mobility for learning for all
Inspiration comes from Safar
Hakaya Regional Meeting
The Indian Summer in Montréal

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About AEF

The Arab Education Forum is a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization active in the Arab World in the field of community and youth work . The mission of AEF is to contribute to an Arab cultural regeneration project that springs out of the inherent knowledge and experiences within the Arab societies

Safar Grant

Grant applications for the Safar/Istikshaf programme are accepted throughout the month. The grant selection committee looks at the submitted applications in the first week of every month, provided that the application is submitted at least one month before the date of travel. For more information


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We want to hear from you

This bulletin provides the latest news of the Arab Education Forum and contains a number of short news items on upcoming activities. We would be more than happy for you to share your news and activities with us. You can send them to us at the following email address:

In the next issue you will find

A presentation about the Safar programme that was given at a meeting about the networks supporting young artists in the Mediterranean region, held during the Carthage Theatre Days in Tunisia on 9th January 2012.

A report of an informal meeting held in the city of Sfax, Tunisia, between representatives of the Arab Education Forum, the National Theatre and the partners in the Hakaya programme.

Participation of the Arab Education Forum and the Hakaya Program in the first MENA Regional Meeting of the International coalition of Sites of Conscience, Casablanca, Morocco, 18-20 January 2012.

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Amman learning city

In the context of developing local partnerships and finding new collaborative work mechanisms to serve the local community, the Arab Education Forum / Safar programme participated in the second Amman: Sustainability, Participation and Civil Governance conference, which was convened by the Greater Amman Municipality from 4th to 8th December 2011. The Arab Education Forum gave an initial presentation about the project 'Amman, A Hospitable City of Learning', the idea of which is currently being developed and finalised, ready for implementation in partnership with the Cultural Department of the Greater Amman Municipality.
The City of Learning project tackles the city's learning needs by building partnerships based on the strong points of institutions and individuals, and the relationships between them, in order to achieve a qualitative cultural shift in the way people view the value of learning. 'Cities of learning' are used as a means of fostering social harmony, economic growth and development to encompass the whole city. The idea originated out of the Arab Education Forum's conviction that there exists a great wealth among urban communities and individual actors.

In light of the Arab Education Forum and the Safar programme's experience, a set of basic values and principles emerged. These values and principles, which form the basis of the project, centre around the wealth of valuable skills, resources and knowledge found among individuals and institutions, qualifying them to create outstanding learning environments and experiences in the city. On this basis, a group of participants of various ages and from various parts of Amman was formed. The group meets once a fortnight to debate and develop the concept of the project, which is based on the idea that the richness and diversity of Amman make it a city full of different experiences and knowledge. The research will therefore concentrate on these resources rather than on what the city lacks. The process involves building on what already exists in the city by building on learning experiences connected to people, their knowledge and their skills – and by this we do not mean the academic learning that an individual can acquire from school.

More than 19 people took part in the initial meeting of the Amman City of Learning project, which was held on 19 December 2011 in the offices of the Arab Education Forum. The meeting was rich in content, and the ideas that were presented were all interesting. The focus was on three key discussion strands. The first concerned the values that govern our way of working. The second strand concerned initial suggestions for subjects that the city's inhabitants could learn. The third strand focused on various propositions for work mechanisms. In addition, there were discussions about work strategy for the people who will form the core team of this project, as well as conversations about the already existing initiatives in Amman, which will form part of the project's database, a key part of the future work.

A new programme manager joins the Forum's

Tala al-Nabulsi joined the Arab Education Forum's team as programme manager at the start of the current year, replacing Mais Irqsusi. Tala's distinguished professional experience extends over more than a decade in both Jordan and Canada. She has worked with many local and international organisations on specialist programmes for young people and women, and on social development and intercultural dialogue.

In 2006 Tala joined the international organisation TakingITGlobal, which is headquartered in Toronto, as site and programme coordinator for the Arab world. In 2008 she was appointed as programme manager for the Youth for Change programme, which TakingITGlobal carried out in partnership with Bibliotheca Alexandrina and a number of organisations from 22 Arab countries, with the aim of encouraging intercultural dialogue and supporting youth development projects. Tala is also one of the founders of the National Forum for Youth and Culture – Jordan Youth, and a member of a number of local and international organisations and institutions. She holds a masters degree in women's studies and a bachelor's degree in political science, as well as a Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate.

A new addition to the Arab Education Forum board of directors

Ms. Mais Irqsusi joined the board of directors of the Arab Education Forum on 1st December 2011 to continue her valuable input to the Forum and social work in general, both in Jordan and the Arab world. Mais had been working as programme manager at the Arab Education Forum since 1st October 2008. During this time she made valuable and effective contributions to the development of the Forum's programmes in every way, in addition to developing mechanisms and internal structures for managing these programmes, and strengthening team work among employees and volunteers alike. She worked particularly on managing and developing the Safar programmes, and the Istikshaf programme that came out of it. In October 2011, Mays resigned from her post to found an institution that aims to develop and spread the concept of 'societal organisation' in Jordan and the Arab world, called Ahel. You can contact Mays via her email:

Mobility for learning for all

The Safar/Istikshaf phase two (Travel/Exploration) programme aims to strengthen the mobility opportunities available to young people, especially for the artists among them, and for those involved in societal initiatives, as well as for others who are looking for cross-border learning. At the same time the programme recognises that the opportunities available do not match the volume of demand, and there will therefore be a significant emphasis on intensifying social and institutional support for mobility and travel for the purposes of learning. In order to provide an environment suitable for creativity, the Safar/Istikshaf programme works to improve all the conditions relating to the creative process, so as to help the artist or the learner to create a better working environment for arts and learning.

The Safar/Istikshaf programme will launch a campaign to influence decision makers and encourage them to remove the obstacles that mobility faces. The campaign also focuses on improving mobility and travel conditions in the Mediterranean countries, with a particular emphasis on Arab countries.

With its relaunch, the Safar/Istikshaf phase two programme is benefiting from its first experience and building upon it. Those in charge of the programme, in collaboration with their partners (the Roberto Cimetta Fund and I-ACT, the International Association for Creation and Training), had set themselves the goal of making mobility for learning available to all, and making it richer, more profound and more widespread, within an environment that respects creativity and plurality.

Inspiration comes from Safar

The Iraqi Peace Camp is embraced by the Youth Development Association
As if it were a dream following a night journey across Wadi Rum; as if it were the night that awaits the morning to work with all persistence and dedication; as if it were the love that transforms the night chants sung by the youth in various dialects. Yes to a revolution against the reality of laziness; yes to positive change and building society.

I woke up in the morning to a discussion about dreams with Mais Irqsusi, about what we can do after Wadi Rum. I answered her by telling her my dream of an Iraqi youth camp, with all the positive meanings and concepts that camping implies – an idea whose light illuminated the darkness of the night as I thought about how a bus could create peaceful coexistence for Iraqi youth.

From here our journey began. Three days of work that started on International Peace Day (21st September), which we chose to launch the camp and to present a model for voluntary work for Iraqi youth. Fifty young men and women, from the provinces of Basra, Al-Muthanna and Babel, took part in the camp. Every morning for three days we would hear the whistle announcing the start of the day, and down we would go to the street, to plant and build, to the astonishment of the local inhabitants. We worked without a political direction or instruction, with only Iraq and what we could give to it on our minds. We planted more than 500 trees and plants; we restored the Quraysh school, which is one of the most ancient primary schools in the area, in time for the start of the new school year. A number of poetry nights and cultural activities were held, along with oud performances and collective cooking. We got used to sleeping in a shared tent with three people who did not know one another. This peaceful coexistence was one of the important vivid experiences of the three days that we spent with the local people.
Isam As'ad, head of the Youth Development Association – Iraq

Hakaya Regional Meeting “Tales of the Arab Spring: Who Writes People’s History(ies)?” 

A planning meeting was held in Alexandria in mid-December 2011 in preparation for the forthcoming 'Tales of the Arab Spring: Who Writes History' [1] gathering, to be held in March 2012. Present were a group of the Hakaya programme's partners, as well as a group of young people, to discuss the importance of convening the gathering under this title. During the meeting the main discussion topics were also specified:
- interweaving our stories
- memory as a source of history
- what is memory? How do we remember?
- how do we preserve this memory, and translate it into history?
- who owns this memory?
- focus on alternative sources of history, art and documentation
- what is art? What is documentation?
- what should the artist produce?
- when should the artist stop producing art and start documenting?
- creative writings of the revolution

The gathering will last for three days between 6th and 8th March in Alexandria.

The Indian Summer in Montréal

This year in Montréal, I had the chance to experience the "Indian Summer", a season that is not found anywhere else. As the lyrics of Jo Dassin's song affirms, the season is reserved for North America and I was determined to embrace it to the fullest. 
During the last week of October, I was invited to a storytelling festival in Québec. The festival's eleventh edition gathered curators, storytellers and interested people who came to join us for a remarkable reunion. 

In the opening of the festival, Marc Laberge, the manager of the program, gave a speech that addressed the exchange of experiences and the space this festival created to allow us to learn from eachother's experiences.  
The speaker announced that Nabilah Bani Yusuf, an artist of a Tunisian descent, was chosen as a spokesperson for this edition. The choice probably reflects an interest in what came to be known as the "Arab Spring" and a gesture to enable an Arab artist, widely known for her courage in tackling issues concerning immigration, to speak on behalf of the festival, especially that her performances always tackle her homeland and her country of residence. 

Cultures of different nations were present at the festival and manifested through the works of exceptional storytellers such as Robert Steven Cruise, attesting to the huge role that storytellers carry. It is, undoubtedly, the mission of a storyteller to preserve the oral heritage and the people's collective memory and pass them on to other generations. It is our duty to make our memories live on.

In the city of Montreal, we were eager to explore different techniques of storytelling, corresponding to our different characters and backgrounds. In one of the distinguished performances, we spent the day in the weekly market of Jean- Talon, where pumpkins of different colors covered the place, celebrating the Halloween's day. Crowds of people flocked into the market and were intrigued by storytellers, accompanied by young musicians, who invited them to join them. It was a purely joyous moment that every passerby was urged to embrace.
And there I was, exploring Montreal's tales, dwarfs and the squirrels hiding underneath the trees of St Donner Street. I felt the taste of the northern world in both; the delicious maple juice and the warmth of the encounter with those who share a passion for storytelling!

This project is funded by the EU.