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SEKEM‘s Journal for Economy, Culture and Society


Nr. 51 September 2006

Dear Reader, the editorial team of SEKEM Insight has made the decision that it is �me for a change. SEKEM Insight, the monthly newsle�er SEKEM sends out to customers, donors, co-workers and other friends will receive new clothes over the coming months. For a long �me readers have received “their” SEKEM Insight in well-known fashion. But with a con�nuously increasing circle of recipients it is also �me for a renewal to make SEKEM Insight reflect the ini�a�ve's selfimage in a more appropriate way: value-oriented but innova�ve and forward-looking. This renewal is not complete yet. Nevertheless beginning this week, we would like to share the new edi�on with you. The new layout gives more room to texts and other content. It is also easier to read thanks to a new type face that makes its appearance look calmer and less crowded. In the future the new SEKEM Insight will also offer its readers more visual and illustra�ve elements such as more images that will allow everyone an even deeper look into the Egyp�an ini�a�ve. We will reveal these new elements to our readers successively over the coming months. This month, we start with the first new element: an image and extended cap�on on the last page of the newsle�er that will introduce you to SEKEM in quite a different way. It will show you how living and working really is in “SEKEM’s world”.

Your Editorial Team




The SEKEM University in Cairo

First day at VTC, SEKEM school

Innova�on and Integrity

A New Thinking for a New Prac�ce - The SEKEM University Interview with Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish

The SEKEM Academy and part of the new SEKEM university

SI: Dr. Abouleish, you have announced the founda�on of the SEKEM University when you received the Alterna�ve Nobel Prize in 2003. What is your personal goal for this ins�tu�on? Dr. IA: The University is a place that shall help bring about innova�on. Through SEKEM’s university, a path to the unity of teaching and prac�ce shall be offered. Prac�ce is the beginning of all new knowledge and development. Out of prac�ce, future poten�al is created. The SEKEM University will thus also have a tremendous social relevance and responsibility. It will help complete the overall goal of the SEKEM ini�a-

�ve: to inject innova�ve, comprehensive impulses for development into the Egyp�an society. In prac�ce, this means that students shall be educated to become “entrepreneurs” of their own knowledge. SI: This places the self-reliance of the student in the middle of the mission of this new ins�tu�on? Dr. IA: Yes, exactly. The Egyp�an higher educa�on system in my view does not encourage the selfreliance of its students enough. Countries like Egypt can benefit from their young populace – it is their chance and poten�al. To tap it, the individual must be empowered to take its own development liteCon�nued on page 2

SEKEMInsight-51 | September 2006

rally into his or her “own hands” and to think in a prac�ce-oriented way. This is only possible through an educa�on that encourages self-reliance, an entrepreneurial spirit and social responsibility, cohesion and ethical thinking. SI: This summer the Egyp�an government has given its green lights for the crea�on of the ins�tu�on. What are the next steps? Dr. IA: Firstly, it is important to highlight that the SEKEM University will be the first private ins�tu�on in Egypt that is fully non-profit and not driven by investors’ interests. The SEKEM Development Founda�on, the Egyp�an Biodynamic Development Associa�on (EBDA), the Abouleish Founda�on, and the Egyp�an Young Business Associa�on will be its founders. Such a model has never been realized before in Egypt and we had to convince quite a few people of the idea. This summer, we have begun to appoint the various professors for the facul�es. The work on curricula and the concept is in full swing and first research projects will begin this autumn. The first regular students will be able to take up their studies in autumn 2007. SI: Which courses are you planning to offer and with which have you decided to begin in the first year? Dr. IA: We will begin in 2007 with pharmacy, engineering – par�cularly mechatronics -, soil and water management and tex�le engineering. In the economics faculty, we will ini�ally be offering courses in marke�ng & communica�on, business administra�on, and informa�on technology. We are planning to take in 250 students in the first year. The human sciences and the arts will be offered as elec�ves, because comprehensive educa-

�on is at the core of our concep�on of human development. Interdisciplinary knowledge is today important in all areas of educa�on and the basis for innova�ve ac�on. Highly specialized knowledge and interdisciplinary coopera�on will be the requirements in future areas of work and encourage entrepreneurial ventures.

wide. Not much has been done so far in this field in Egypt. From the very beginning, SEKEM has worked closely with many friends from all over the world and also in this case we are seeking orienta�on with coopera�on partners in other countries. I: You are men�oning a very important subject: interna�onal partnerships. How are these going

„Collabora�on across poli�cal, societal and geographical borders has always been at the core of SEKEM’s work. “ In a second phase that will tenta�vely start in autumn 2010 we will add addi�onal engineering courses like energy and climate technologies and industrial design. In the human sciences, we will be adding courses in languages, sociology and the arts. In a third phase, we will add courses in dental medicine, complementary medicine and nursing. The concept allows for 3500 students overall. SI: A par�cular characteris�c of the SEKEM University is its intercultural, comprehensive approach. Students shall not only come from Egypt. What will you do to encourage students to come to Cairo? Dr. IA: Higher educa�on is experiencing radical changes everywhere. There have been strong impulses working towards a general easing of interna�onal exchange and collabora�on in the academic fields. It is important for us to employ “state of the art”-methods very early on, par�cularly in this regard. Accredita�on and standardiza�on of curricula are, for instance, key steps towards an improvement of higher educa�on in Egypt and of the Egyp�an student world-

„The SEKEM University will be the first private ins�tu�on in Egypt that is fully non-profit and not driven by investors’ interests.“

SEKEMInsight-51 | September 2006

to shape the SEKEM University? Dr. IA: They are already shaping it. Collabora�on with other ins�tu�ons worldwide already is an essen�al part of our concept. I am indeed very grateful for the manifold assistance we have received over the past years. Collabora�on, across poli�cal, societal and geographical borders has always been at the core of SEKEM’s work. SEKEM could not build the university without it and it will also add to the project its specific “added value”: innova�ve impulses for a different future will be created through a new kind of thinking on the founda�on of manifold cultural influences. This kind of new thinking will boost Egypt’s development in a sustainable way and will contribute to peace on a global level. Ques�ons by Chris�na Boecker

First Day at SEKEM School and Voca�onal Training Centre SEKEM Celebrates Opening of New School Year The pupils and students of SEKEM School know they can do it. When, in three or twelve years �me, these youngsters will have finished their educa�on, they will not only have developed skills to succeed in life or fulfil a job. They will also have learned the values of living in a peaceful intercultural environment, of being respec�ul to the earth, nature and all human beings - values that are typical elements of the „SEKEM idea“. They will integrate them into their own lives and ac�vely contribute to the further development of their country. Corien Hoek Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish welcomes pupils of the first grader of the SEKEM School

Early morning on Saturday, 16 September, SEKEM celebrated the Opening of the new School Year. The Opening Ceremony is always a fes�ve celebra�on held every year in the presence of the en�re SEKEM community. On this first day, children of the new first class of the primary school and the young adults of the first year of voca�onal training are officially welcomed to their new “workplace”. The ceremony takes place in the amphitheatre. This open air venue is located in a quiet part of the SEKEM grounds on a hill. Around 1000 people a�ended the event, a day they and the new pupils will not easily forget: children, voca�onal training students, teachers, employees working in the firms of SEKEM and guests are usually among the audience. This �me, as every year, thirty small children await the beginning of the ceremony on the broad stage, all of them dressed in a new red shirt, their “class dress”. They pa�ently wait for the event to begin. The ceremony usually begins with a recital of a verse from the Qur’an. The school orchestra plays the na�onal anthem and several pieces of classical music. The audience is all eye and ear. The teacher of the first class to be welcomed rises and recites the names

of the children, one by one. When a child is called, he or she crosses the stage and halts in front of the teacher. The teacher personally shakes every child’s hand. It is very moving to see these young boys and girls walk in a self-assured and serious manner towards the teacher. When the last has been welcomed by the teacher, the queue of new pupils slowly leaves the stage. Hand in hand they walk along the path that leads them to their seats in the front row. Their teacher proceeds with telling them a short story that metaphorically marks this special day. Among the crowd are also proud fathers and mothers who see their young child begin a new stage in his or her life. They will be wondering what life at school will have in stock for them and how they will have changed when 12 years at the SEKEM School finally come to an end. The ceremony is concluded with live music and the inaugura�on of the first class of the voca�onal training centre. Its pupils too, one by one, are announced by their name and receive a handshake from their teacher. The event then closes with a tradi�onal Egyp�an song: „Wake up, Egyp�ans, wake up, love your country and help it progress”. SEKEMInsight-51 | September 2006

New Courses at VTC SEKEM have opened 2 new courses in voca�onal training in 2006. They have now added computer maintenance and plumbing to already exis�ng courses is tex�le works, carpentry, mechanics, agri-engineering, trade and electronics. To supply the new courses, SEKEM have in inaugurated 2 new workshops, appointed new teachers and accepted 20 addi�onal appren�ces.

The voca�onal training course of 3 years is concluded with an official cer�ficate and the trained “graduates” o�en find first employment within SEKEM. 200 appren�ces now meet their 22 teachers each morning in the circle. SEKEM has been supported in the introduc�on of the new courses by the „13-villages-project“. More on this ini�a�ve in the next SEKEM Insight. Yvonne Floride

Weaving Innova�on and Integrity Into Organic Tex�les SEKEM and Alnatura Present at Common Booth at Conference on Organic Co�on “Weaving Innova�on and Integrity into Organic Tex�les” was the slogan of the conference organized by Organic Exchange on 13-15 September in Utrecht, The Netherlands. In numerous speeches and workshops visitors discussed and worked on a mul�tude of current aspects of the topic of produc�on and processing of organic co�on. Chris�na Boecker, representa�ve of the German branch office of SEKEM, took part as a speaker in two of working groups on fair-trade co�on and on shared experience in the development of a mul�stage chain of produc�on for organic products. Prof. Dr. Carl Rohe, Trend Watcher, spoke about new trends in garment and clothing industries and how to harness them for posi�oning organic tex�les on the market. Other a�endees of the conference also contributed to the event through talks and personal experiences. It was exci�ng

to note how interna�onal brands like Nike or Woolworth have begun to introduce organic co�on into their product por�olios. The exchange of know-how and experience was one of the main benefits of the event that also presented a “marketplace” in the lobby of the venue. SEKEM/Conytex and Alnatura here together presented their products and established a great number of new contacts. The conference concluded with a plenary session that again brought to the fore the par�cular experience of most stakeholders in the organic co�on market: that all actors from the growers in Africa or Asia, through weavers and dyers, to the big brand producers actually do work together to create a new market. It was a new experience for most representa�ves of big brands to seek informa�on directly with growers and the peasants themselves also expressed their apprecia�on of finally being recognized as

actors in the market by having a say at events like these. Most par�cipants agreed that this level of transparency is unique and very different from the rela�ve opacity of the market of conven�onal produc�on. Several working groups will con�nue their work un�l the next conference in autumn 2007 on the regional and professional levels. Many have, for instance, voiced their concern about the urgency of having to develop a new strategy on transparency in the market. Most of the par�cipants agreed that global demand for organic co�on will exceed available quan��es by 2007. Then, at the latest, will it be �me to return to the issue of integrity in order not to jeopardise the longterm trust of the customer. Chris�na Boecker

Impressions from SEKEM hoopoe breeds in small nes�ng caves inside trees, some�mes in corners under roofs. The bird is a very characteris�c bird of the Mediterranean and its countrysides shaped by man-mande agricultural landscapes because of its habitat demands. It is less common in some parts of Western Europe, such as Southern or Eastern Germany.

Photo: Dieter Marienfeld

The hoopoe, lat. upupo epops and Hud Hud in Arabic, is a bird that is also common in Egypt. It flies in butterfly-like, wavey manner and feeds off insects that he hunts in the open countryside only lightely covered with shrubs and small trees. The

As trees are scarce in Egypt, also the hoopoe has become a rare sight. The reforesta�on ini�ated by SEKEM on its own planta�ons in the Sharkeya governorate, however, have lead to a drama�c increase in the diversity of animals and insects in shrubs, trees and on fields. Also general landscaping in the decora�ve parts of the mother farm near Bilbeis have contributed to this development. This way, almost 30 species have returned to or become more frequent in this area.

SEKEMInsight-51 | September 2006

Imprint: Publisher: SEKEM, Egypt The editors of SEKEM Insight extend their gra�tude to all correspondents, who contributed to this issue. Editors: Chris�na Boecker Bijan Kafi Natascha Floride Contact: SEKEM-Insight c/o Sekem Holding P.O.Box 2834 El Horreya, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt

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