Al Akhawayn University and the American University of Cairo Discuss COVID-19, Herd Immunity, and the West & Women in the Arab World
Al Akhawayn University participated in a virtual interinstitutional project of dialogue and exchange with the American University of Cairo, through ZOOM. The online course was a great opportunity for AUI and AUC students to interact and discuss current issues of interest to young people in the MENA region. In addition, AUI students had the opportunity to put their public speaking skills to test, altering their usual audience consisting of classmates and the professor. In this virtual meeting, the audience was unknown to the speakers and much larger than what they were used to. This event was made possible thanks to Dr. Latifa El Mortaji, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dr. Fahmy from AUC.
Prior to the meeting, professors assigned academic readings to their students, which included “Herd Immunity is Epidemiological Neoliberalism,” “How the West Undermined Women’s Rights in the Arab World,” and “Gender and Politics in the Arab World.” The suggested material enabled students to demonstrate plausibility and confidence as the main benefits of the partially impromptu speaking occasion.
During the discussion, AUI and AUC students reflected on COVID-19 in both Morocco and Egypt and provided support to each other by expressing their feelings and views about the entire situation. In addition, all students shared and reported on their government’s preventive measures to contain the virus. Both parties were able to get acquainted with the responses of the governments of Morocco and Egypt as well as both Moroccan and Egyptian citizens’ reactions to the global crisis. It was agreed that both countries took various initiatives in order to adapt to the sanitary crisis such as dedicating funds to mitigate the health crisis and the lockdown. Moreover, different students from different areas in Morocco and Egypt noted various reactions from people in their surroundings, who were either reacting with total panic or complete indifference. Many issues were raised including the issue of lack of awareness amongst some citizens - them not accepting the responsibility of respecting and applying the preventative measures as well as how in some communities, especially the rural ones, the transition to a lifestyle of social distancing is much more challenging. This is due to the reality of large-size families as opposed to small ones, where life can get suffocating during the lockdown and aggressive behaviors are, thus, more prevalent.
Furthermore, the students had the opportunity to exchange their perspectives about women’s rights in Morocco and Egypt. The general outcome was that despite prevalent injustices that women face, there were many improvements in terms of the integration of women in the House of Representatives in both Morocco’s and Egypt’s parliaments. Also, Egypt provided hotlines for the support of harassment and domestic violence victims during the pandemic.
The meeting enabled students to put their public speaking skills into practice and to gain a thorough reflection on the current circumstances.
Written by Yman Hamzaoui, an SHSS Student and Participant