Last month Isra University hosted two full days of events for the Wikipedia Education Program. There were many reasons to celebrate: Jordan had completed its first full term as part of the Wikipedia Education Program; a group of seven Egyptians made the trip to Amman to share their experiences and successes and contribute to more regional exchange in the program; and I got to meet some of the amazing volunteers who are the backbone of the program. In my new role as the Arab World Education Program Manager, I get excited every day knowing I am lucky to work with such a smart and dynamic group of people in Jordan and Egypt, as well as in other countries in the region and around the world.
During the visit in Amman, there were countless stories exchanged, both formally and informally. These exchanges happened in the conference room at Isra University, in the Roman ruins at the Amman Citadel and Jerash, and over group dinners at night. The two professors from Egypt, Dr. Dalia El-Toukhy and Dr. Abeer El-Hafez, explained to the group how fulfilling the Wikipedia assignments were for their students. Yes, there were many hurdles to overcome, like access to technology, but the end result was well worth the extra effort. Having their students’ work published online for the world to see was a confidence boost for many of their students, especially when the articles received Good or Featured Article status. Some students now even include this experience on their CVs.
What was equally inspiring about this visit to Amman was the effort of some Jordanian Wikipedians to meet up with the visiting group from Egypt. Jordanians pride themselves on hospitality, and this translates into the Wikipedia community as well. By coordinating with the group online, two Jordanian Wikipedians were able to join us for much of our time in Amman. They took great pride in showing us around the city, and also contributed valuable insights into discussions about the program, adding the perspective of the Arabic Wikipedian community. The support of the online community is crucial to the ultimate success of the Wikipedia Education Program, so we can all work together to improve the quality, quantity, and diversity of content available on the Arabic Wikipedia.
There is a lot of momentum in the Wikipedia Education Program in the Arab world, which makes me excited to see what the next year has in store. While the political future may appear uncertain in some parts of the region, we have seen that our students continue to have a profound impact on the online encyclopedia. This past July for instance, an unprecedented amount of content was added to the Arabic Wikipedia from our students in Egypt despite political uncertainty in the country.
Jordan is entering its second term in the program, and program leaders are hoping to include many more professors and schools. There is a lot of good momentum right now after our recent visit, and we hope to harness this energy and translate it into quality contributions to the Arabic Wikipedia. Saudi Arabia will also be joining the program soon, and we can’t wait to see the content those students contribute as well. Algeria, which had an extremely active class last term, may also explore new ways to contribute to the program this this year.
The Wikipedia Education Program in the Arab world tends to surpass any expectations. While we set the goals for the next year, it’s hard to predict what this next year has in store. And I can’t wait to find out!
Arab World Education Program Manager