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Students in Gaza, Qatar, and United States Engage in Global Dialogue

University students in Gaza, Qatar, and the United States have found a new way to cross the cultural divide. Al Fakhoora, an international project aimed at promoting educational freedom for students in Gaza and the West Bank, has launched its Virtual Majlis program that uses Cisco's telepresence technology to connect students in a global dialogue on issues of cultural and social value.

Al Fakhoora has partnered with Penn State's World in Conversation program on its new project, according to a statement released last week by Cisco. The project is using Cisco's TelePresence Quick Set C20 and Codec C40 systems to create virtual "Majlis"—or sitting rooms—where students from Gaza, Qatar, and Penn State can meet to engage in cross-cultural discussions. Al Fakhoora Director Farooq Burney characterized the program as a way to foster communication skills in the students.

"Empowering youth is much more than providing them with a degree," said Burney. "We believe our students need to acquire the communication skills necessary to put forward their ideas and realize their dreams. Dialogue not only provides them with a platform to be heard, but also with the essential skill of learning to listen, engage and advocate; dexterity tools that will empower them to be better leaders within their communities."

The weekly Virtual Majlis sessions, led by student facilitators trained by World in Conversation staff, are designed to foster critical thinking and encourage the participants to explore commonalities among the represented cultures. Bilingual students serve as translators for the weekly one- to two-hour long discussions. The group also uses social media tools—including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—to foster conversation and keep the meetings transparent.

For more information about Virtual Majlis, visit Al Fakhoora or World In Conversation's Web sites.

About the Author

Kanoe Namahoe is online editor for 1105 Media's Education Group. She can be reached at knamahoe@1105media.com.

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