Today I got to attend the official launch of the Madrasati initiative and I have to admit, for someone who’s not easily impressed by about 98% of the things that happen in this country, I was pretty impressed. Not many people, especially in the media, knew exactly what it entailed so it was quite a surprise to see public school kids and their teachers from all over Jordan (100 represented), set up their own little booths at the Zara Center, putting the best and the worst of their school on display for all to see. The idea of the launch was to put these kids, their schools and CEOs from some of the largest corporations in Jordan, all under one roof for the purpose of school-sponsorship. At the back of the hall stood a giant yellow wall where every now and then a CEO would grace it with his signature while a golden school bell announced yet another sponsorship. It was quite interesting to see students from some of the most unfortunate public schools in the Kingdom lobby some of the biggest names in the country, at times ambushing several at a time. From Samir Rifai and Ghassan Nuqul to Fadi Ghandour and Saeed Darwazah. National educational NGO’s I’ve been in love with for some time such as INJAZ and Ruwwad were also there to lend a hand to this initiative.
The idea of Madrasati is to induce a collective spirit across the spectrum, to help better the learning environments of these schools, many of which are in pretty bad shape. The learning environment I’m referring to is that of infrastructure: including facilities, supplies, essentials as well as teacher training. Sponsorships range from financial aid and training teachers, to allowing their employees to volunteer through entwined programs such as INJAZ; it’s a way to get some of these NGO programs a way to branch out into the system. That’s what this launch was about, but what I found most interesting about the Madrasati initiative was the fact that it attempts to be comprehensive. While today focused on bringing the private sector and the public schools together, Madrasati also seeks the participation of private schools – through their fundraising, resources, and teaching infrastructure – as well as ordinary youth wanting to volunteer, and ordinary citizens wanting to donate.
The way it has attempted to integrate all these components, including other initiatives like INJAZ and Ruwwad, is outstanding, and it will be very interesting to see how well embedded Madrasati will become within the educational and corporate culture of the country. From huge corporations like Nuqul and Zain involving their employees, to private school student councils involving their students (maybe even for school credit as part of some of the international programs), all coming together to mend the broken schools of the country. You can even track the progress of all the schools through an online interactive map in the official website.
This is the kind of initiative I was hoping would emerge, because it’s not just about throwing money at the problem or (barely) implementing the vast array of plans drawn up by people who have the solution-to-everything; it’s about transforming the national culture to summon a national sense of responsibility, that addresses national problems and national needs. Because the Queen is right in this regard: education is most definitely a social responsibility.
Hopefully, when this initiative takes off and starts making an impact, the government can start working on the macro issues I’ve lamented about. And hey, if they want to start now, that would be great too.