Young Arabs invited to IT creativity camp in Tunis

Ahmed Mahmoud , Wednesday 6 Jun 2012

The Arab Digital Expression Foundation (ADEF), a Cairo-based NGO aiming to generate and exchange information, will launch its summer camp this year (1-15 July) in the Tunisian capital

ADEF spreads creativity around the Arab world starting from Tunis

The IT creativity camp will host 80 boys and girls from around the Arab world. It is an ambitious project aiming to develop the capabilities of Arab children in modern digital technology; and it fosters a creative artistic and scientific environment with educational supervision and a unique human experience.

ADEF has organised five annual camps since 2007, with the participation of nearly 170 Arab trainers from Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Jordan and Syria between the ages of 20-40 years. The camps were attended by 284 children aged 11-15.

Participants will be trained by expert artists, intellectuals, activists and educators from around the Arab world to use digital technology in vocals, music and video, as well as in computer animation and creative use of the Internet, relying on open-source concepts that allow publishing, transmission, Arabisation, addition and alteration of the content these young users create free of charge.

The camps aim to build a free generation of Arab children, boys and girls, giving them a chance to generate their own ideas and produce their own artistic work once they have specified their field of interest. The children are also taught to blog and to use social networks as media for democracy.

The camp also focuses on a number of non-digital activities that encourage self-expression, including drama, handicrafts, art and sports. Specialised trainers guide campers in groups and on a one-on-one basis to develop and support their talents.

Campers will also go on two field trips to explore Tunisia’s heritage.

Amina Allam, a 15-year-old student and ADEF camper, said this is her fourth year at the camp after her first time in 2009. “When I participated the first time, I discovered I loved cinema so I learned a lot about the art of cinema,” Allam said. “Now, I am a club leader at camp and my role is to help new participants who love cinema to learn about it. What I benefited from the most are the many friends I made from different countries. This year, I really want to explore something new.”

Sama El-Erian, camp coordinator and ADEF team member, revealed: “The new thing this year is the institution’s desire to relay its expertise and experience to the rest of the Arab world, starting with Tunis.” Al-Eryan added that Tunisian activists and experts were very interested in replicating ADEF camps in their country.

The Tunisian Association for Artistic and Digital Expression (Ta3bir), created in Tunisia after the revolution, is the organiser of this year’s camp under ADEF supervision.

“We hope to implement this programme in all Arab countries,” she said. “Tunis is our first stop. We feel that participation by trainers and campers from countries that did not participate in the past, such as Libya, Mauritania and some Arab Gulf states, is a success for us and a step on the road to spreading our message as widely as possible.”

Ranwa Yehia, director of Egypt’s ADEF office, told Ahram Online about the tremendous developments in the programme. Since its creation in 2005, a wide network of people interested in the development of Arab youth emerged, especially after they recognised the failure of traditional schooling to nurture the creative capabilities of the young. They sought to develop potential through promoting the concept of freedom of expression and Internet skills in a creative way without censorship, in order to influence and advance artistic and technological innovation in their societies.

“The project was a dream I sought to realise with my husband Ali Shaath, after I decided to give up my journalism career and do something that I felt was more beneficial to society,” reveals Yehia. She modelled the project on Arab computer camps between 1984-1994 which made an impact on more than 10,000 Arab girls and boys who are now influential in their societies – including leading figures such as political activists Hossam El-Hamalawi, Alaa Abdel-Fatah, and others.

Ahmed Gharbeya, one of the camp’s trainers, explained that camp training does not use traditional methods, but rather depends on releasing the underlying potential of participants.

“The idea is to open the door for these youth to discover themselves, stimulate their potential for expression and innovation,” said Gharbeya.

“Our role is to introduce them to the tools that help them do this. We review the abilities of participants to direct them correctly, and this method is different from traditional training models. In Egypt, learning is mostly done through indoctrination, which is something we want to change. In this project, we believe that each individual has a reserve of capabilities and talents, and our role is to help them explore these. At the same time, we do not expect campers to become professionals and do not push them in that direction; that is their decision.”

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