Georgetown University’s (GU-Q) Community Engagement Program (CEP) participants recently returned from their Sri Lanka service trip under the theme of Education and Development.

Every year the programme sends a group of students on an international service trip with the purpose of introducing students to a sense of responsibilities of national and global citizenship. As an extension of the University’s core values of social justice and service to others, the program helps students develop an understanding of the world as an interdependent system and increases global awareness and concern.

Explaining how the trip and on-site learning provided substantial context to the conventional classroom learning, GU-Q Assistant Director of Student Programs, Uday Rosario, said:

Education is one of the issues that is very relevant to Qatar and was therefore, a theme for our Community Engagement Program this year. The students had the opportunity to connect their classroom and research experiences with on-field interactions, which we hope cemented their interest in working for this important issue, both locally and internationally.’

Focusing on the theme of Education and Development, the curriculum of this year’s CEP initiative was designed to incorporate topics of history of education, overseas development aid and education, the UN Millennium Development Goals, education and innovation, and the social and legal aspects of education.

During the trip a group of three GU-Q faculty facilitators and eleven students explored the issues dealing with complexities of education and development – an issue that is very pertinent to the social and political landscape of Qatar. Prior to the trip, the students have undergone 30 hours of academic content relating to the history, legality, economics, and socio-political aspects of education and development. In addition, they learned about the best practices and case studies where countries have excelled in reaching the development goal of providing education to all. With the aim of exposing students to the complex economic, social and political disparities and the different models to address various challenges in this field.

Commenting on the experience gained through the program from a student perspective, GU-Q student, Mohammad Taimur Ali Ahmad, said:

This trip provided an excellent mix of academic and practical experience and allowed me to get a very insightful understanding of the education system in Sri Lanka and its nuances. We met various stakeholders and heard a variety of different perspectives which gave me the chance to critically analyse the system and go beyond merely statistics. I hope to take this experience and practically apply it here in Qatar and also back in my home country, Pakistan.’

Through partnership with the non-profit housing provider Habitat for Humanity the students had the opportunity to help out with home building projects in eastern Batticaloa and engage with the local children through educational activities witnessing firsthand how education fits into the livelihoods and the identity of the people in Sri Lanka.

In the previous years, through CEP service trips GU-Q students have visited Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, South Africa, Tanzania and the U.S. state of Louisiana.