Thursday, May 3, 2012

Baha Uni Open Day: April 2012

Some of the (mostly) Egyptian teachers involved in Open Day
The first open day at Baha University was in December 2011. This week we had the second. It was not truly an open day in that it was not open to the public, parents, family or other interested parties (there are no events in KSA where the possibility exists of a male and female meeting and socialising). However it was an opportunity for the sudents to show-off their English skills in front of their peers and university management. Events were organised by the teachers and performed exclusively by the students. It was also a good marketing opportunity for Al Jazeera as the local TV stations were on hand to record the event.

The festivities commenced (predictably) with speeches praising and lauding our achievements. Pass rates were up, teachers were enthusiastic and highly skilled, students were motivated and thirsty for knowledge. This was followed by a recitation from the Q'ran and an Islamic song sung by a choir of students.

There was a debate, which was unfortunately marred by poor sound quality,  between students about whether KSA is a desirable tourist destination or not. Arguments for and against were evenly balanced and when the audience was asked to express an opinion by a show of hands the result was a resounding "aye" for apathy.

The students then presented a tragedy, Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice". I was initially involved
in the production of this play and selected the scenes to be presented. However I had nothing whatever to do with the actual presentation of this work. The students were enthusiastic and clearly enjoyed themselves in performing the different roles.

We had a game show where Team Smart and Team Bright answered general knowledge questions. The quiz master, also a student, was lively and vainly did his best to generate some excitement and enthusiasm in the audience as he quizzed the contestants. Eventually Team Bright was declared the winner, a result which appeared to stun the audience into deathly silence.

Between all of these acts we either had the singing of Islamic songs of praise or a game of "Who am I?" Students dressed as various popular figures such as The King of KSA, Yasser Arafat and Adolph Hitler and acted the part of the characters.

Adolph Hitler (holding a microphone)
Hitler strutted around the stage and proclaimed that he had started World War II, had been responsible for the death of millions, including millions of Jewish people in the holocaust.

Arafat cheerfully shared with the audience that he had dedicated
Mr. Y Arafat
his life to fighting the Jews and performing other noble acts. After they had described themselves they thundered "WHO AM I?" and the audience was required to shout out the answer.

Ironically, this was followed by a student singing "What a Wonderful World" (Louis Armstrong)!
I had a small part in the festivities facilitating a debate
on the importance of English
 Music is not allowed in KSA so he sang without the benefit of any musical accompaniment. In the circumstances he did very well.

Events were concluded with the awarding of diplomas for outstanding students by the Dean of the university and the honouring of the top act. This turned out to be one of the choirs who sang an Islamic song of peace.

May the sentiments of the songs that were sung during the course of the event, peace, love, understanding and tolerance find fertile soil amongst the future leaders of this country.