Against this backdrop, Al-Fanar Media and SPARK, a Netherlands-based nonprofit that supports higher education and job creation efforts in fragile states, organized an online conference that invited leaders in online education and job creation to discuss a momentous question:
“How can we best support vulnerable but ambitious students and entrepreneurs during and after the Covid-19 crisis?”
The conference, titled “Rebuilding Futures: Education and Jobs for Youth During Crisis,” was held on four days over two weeks in May. It brought together a variety of stakeholders, including university leaders, education scholars, online-learning experts, education advocacy groups, entrepreneurs, and students. With some 450 people listening in online, the speakers discussed the struggles, lessons learned, and opportunities to help the region shape the future of online education and job creation.
Below are descriptions of each of the sessions and links to videos where readers can listen to the sessions in full.
Week 1: Moving to Online Education
The conference’s first week focused on Arab educational institutions’ dash to shift their classes online after Covid-19 closed their campuses, and the worries that raised about the quality of the education provided and the effects on students’ academic year, mental health, and job future. It also focused on how the crisis might serve as a catalyst for enhancing online education and taking advantage of the interactivity and tracking of student learning that are possible in the digital space.
The Acceleration of Online Education
Participants: Halil Can Emre, blended learning specialist, SPARK; Alper Tolga Kumtepe, College of Open Education, Anadolu University; Shireen Yacoub, chief executive of the platform Edraak; May Wazzan, independent consultant; and Dahlia Maarouf, leadership development specialist, Education Above All.
The panel covered topics like what can be learned from leaders in online education in the Middle East, and how administrators, teachers, and students overcame the obstacles they faced. Other concerns included how to guarantee access for all students, how to maintain the quality of education online, and what kind of support and partnerships will be needed to improve online learning going forward.
Thursday, May 14
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) During Times of Large-Scale Disruption
Speaker: Tariq Al Gurg, chief executive of Dubai Cares, which focuses on education access and quality issues worldwide.
Tariq Al Gurg spoke about the impact of Covid-19 on his organization’s global efforts to expand technical and vocational education and training programs, as well as higher education.
Week 2: Creating Jobs During Covid-19
The second week of the Rebuilding Futures conference looked at the challenges facing startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) in fragile states during the crisis, and how local and international organizations can best help entrepreneurs to adjust.
Wednesday, May 20
Women Entrepreneurship During Crisis
Speaker: Hala Bugaighis, researcher, business-law expert and co-founder of Jusoor for Studies and Development
In this keynote, Hala Bugaighis shares her vision about the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in crisis situations and what can be done to support them.
Online Business Coaching
Participants: Ahmad Sufian Bayram, a social entrepreneur and author; Mehmet Uvez, gender and economic inclusion specialist with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); Saleem Najjar, founder of Sharqi Shop; and Elif Coskunkan, managing partner at Etohum.
The panel discussed the mentoring needs of young entrepreneurs who turn to peers and experts for coaching, and how the priority has shifted to online coaching now that face-to-face contact is impossible.
Entrepreneurs Speak: The Battle Against Covid-19
Participants: Grace Atkinson, director, Jusoor Syria; Mohammed Abu Matar, founder and chief executive of Tashkeel3D; Hamza Alouini, head of production at the Tunis-based factory ConsoMED; Richard van Hoolwerff, founder and chief executive of Emergi, a startup that offers innovative products to contribute to a renewable future; and Nowar Rahmouni, founder of “Gharna” for traditional, organic and handmade products.
Entrepreneurs are stepping up to produce essential goods to fight Covid-19—facemasks, gowns, sanitizers, and even ventilators. In this session, some of the front-runners talked about how they tackled the challenges they faced. The session also paid attention to how best to support entrepreneurs in times of crisis.