Saturday, September 11, 2004

Popular University of St. Thomas Aquinas

The following is the proposal for Popular University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Baghdad, Iraq. check here for more details.

The Popular University of St. Thomas Aquinas For Human Sciences Studies

Established and Supervised by: The Dominican Fathers in Iraq
Prepared by: Fr. Yousif Thomas Mirkis
Ph.D. degree in Theology (The University of Strasbourg-France)
M Sc. degree in Ethnology (The College of Nanter-Paris10-France)

The Popular University of St. Thomas Aquinas For Human Sciences Studies.

    The association of the Dominican Fathers, in Iraq, has on a world basis been highly concerned with cultural studies since the 13th century. And when the Dominican Fathers in the year 1750 open up a work in the region of Mosul (Nineveh) it wasn't long before they started in the field of education and thus opened many cultural schools in Mosul, Dohouk and the surrounding areas.

    During the last 20 years the Dominican Fathers have intensified their efforts in Baghdad the Capital of Iraq through theological courses. These courses have been attended by thousands of youth and they have been held in the Roman Catholic (Latin) Church of St. Joseph, Hay al Wahda, Baghdad.

    The Dominican Fathers are now looking towards the future. A future based on their past experiences and the particular needs in the field of education for the Iraqi youth. The Dominican Fathers believe that the future of Iraq should be built on something new that will be brought about through the creation of a new cultural foundation.

    Throughout the last number of years the Dominican Fathers have sent many young graduates to Europe and the U.S.A to receive the very best in terms of post-graduate education. The goal has been to see these same young people return and make their new-found education fit into the frame of a society that owes very much to a civilization that has been around for several millennia. With their new-found skills and capabilities coupled with those of the Dominican Fathers everybody is confident that they have been able to build a team that will be able to instill today's youth with the best in terms of education given on their "home-turf". As the university will offer the education free of charge and during hours (afternoons and evenings) that will not interfere with professional people's working-hours they know that youth who earlier due to various circumstances were not able to continue their studies during the years of the earlier regime will receive a welcome new opportunity in their lives.

    It's the desire of this "Popular University" project to be an integral part of the development of a new society that has started functioning during the aftermath of the war of Spring 2003.

    As the humanistic sciences in Iraq during the former regime showed a great weakness while being under total governmental control the change in this country has brought about an opportunity to give people in Iraq an education, which is independent and free from government interference.

    Target groups, beneficiaries:
    The project serves a wide range of people of different ages -- 20 to 50 years.

    The students will have to prove university entrance qualifications in order to qualify for further studies. They will be both men and women; they will be chosen and then distributed into classes according to their capabilities and subjects that they have applied for.

    The lectures will be in Arabic and English. There will be further lectures in French for those who will have a good knowledge of that language.

    After work "the evening university" will give a new opportunity for this portion of the population, and many are those who crave for an opportunity to continue their studies after having had to break them off due to the hard economical circumstances.

    The beneficiaries will be secondary school graduates and students will be accepted regardless of ethnic or religious background.

    The Dominican Fathers own a site, which is currently used for the Dijla Secondary School for Girls. This site is located in Hay Al Wahda / District No. 904 / within a residential area situated not very far from the center of Baghdad. With the beginning of the school year 2004–2005, the school premises can be used for the Popular University classes to be held in the afternoons and early evenings.

    After the completion of the residential building extensions planned for the site, the Dominican Fathers will be joined by yet other post-graduates who will share their residence quarters. The professors and lecturers residing there will also be joined by different local full time professors, part time professors and instructors not residing on the site as well as by guest-lecturers.

    Overall Development Goal:
    The overall goals are to serve the academic needs of the country and thus also the humanitarian needs of the people of Iraq. The Popular University will of course depend on a local staff with the possibility of having other global members to help us in our humanitarian mission. We have already made contacts with many universities around the globe who showed their pleasure and deep interest in helping us on many, many levels.

    After the many years of oppression and countless wars we can honestly say that one of the basic goals in establishing this popular university is to help in the real reconstruction of Iraq and that the most important part is to meet people's spiritual needs. Without a spiritual approach we will not be able to start the true restoration of the Iraqi people, so this will certainly be our guide-line.

    This project will give the opportunity for a considerable portion of men and women, to have a new start in their lives to see some of their dreams of attending high education come true, after many years of being isolated from true education and actually from the rest of the world, as there is no doubt that all cultural and human sciences in this country suffer from a dangerous cultural gap that has been created due to that isolation and the intense effort of the former regime to stop any kind of personal initiative and creativity. Due to the classes being held after working hours the students will not come under an extraordinary economic stress but will find in the right environment a way of enhancing their knowledge and find opportunities to really continue their intellectual pursuit.

    The Popular University will also stress educational opportunities especially for women in our society. We do believe that the women are not only the people who bring new physical life into the world, but that they are an important part of the new Iraqi society that we yearn to see come out of the ashes.

    Yes, our Popular University will serve all Iraqis, regardless gender or religious beliefs.

    This project is unique in Iraq. The program will be much different from all the human sciences programs of the current governmental Iraqi universities and colleges.

    These current governmental colleges programs have been very weak, isolated from the world, and of such a low level most intellectuals would not even consider them when applying to university.

    The Dominican Fathers want to serve the important portion of the society who has not had the opportunity to attend high education because of the hard economical situations during the previous years in Iraq. While working hard in their jobs they will now receive this new opportunity to go on with their studies. The previous 20 years' experience in giving lectures at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baghdad where 600-1000 persons attended yearly on a weekly basis have given the Dominican Fathers the right background to go ahead with the founding of this Popular University.

    The Dominican Fathers have pictures and documents to prove that about 13000 persons attended these theological courses during the years 1984 through 2003. The Dominican Fathers think that many of their previous students, who are very thirsty for further theoretical and academic life, will rejoin this university, besides the many new students who will join the university.

    One of the most important 'pillars' is the library, which will be opened to the public through the Popular University project. The Dominican Fathers have a 7,000- book library in Baghdad and a 35,000-book library in Mosul. The Dominican Fathers will also have a web site to make it possible for many to surf the Internet and in this way make use of our library.

    To give further opportunities to people there will be lectures during holidays and weekends for the public, especially for those who cannot attend the university on a daily basis.

    The Dominican Fathers' history in Iraq witnesses to the fact that they have played a continuous active role in preaching, teaching and educating in many fields like theology, philosophy, history, languages, human rights, arts (including literature, music and theater), medicine, media and many other technical and information services.

    The Order of the Dominican Fathers is an international order and is neither a governmental, nor a political association. It's the desire of this association to remain thus, as it continues to own and run more than 40 universities and academic centers around the world.

    Impact/Expected results:
    A future very qualified people in human sciences will fill the present gap of spiritual and cultural awareness in the Iraqi society, which is partly due to the lack of serious independent studies apart from those assigned by consecutive governments. It is expected that 250 students will benefit from this "evening university" during the first year of operation.

    This project meets the following overall development goals:

    • Help individuals with further education, as a result of persecution, sanctions and war.

    • Assist Iraqi authorities and administrative structures to render appropriate service to the population.

    • Build relationships of mutual exchange and cooperation with local organizations and churches in order to promote conflict resolution and strengthen civil society.

    Main Objectives of this project:

    • Give people possibilities for further studies.

    • Raise awareness of Human Rights.

    There will be two stages:

    The constructional stage:
    This stage includes completing the whole building requirements according to the drawing plans that have been designed by an architectural and engineering consultant office. As this is a costly stage that will demand a larger sum of funds we have decided that during the opening year the emphasis will be on the academic working stage.

    The Dominican Fathers will try to finance the building program in several phases from other donors throughout the years. (Not part of this project proposal!)

    The Working Stage:
    The Dominican Fathers want the college to develop on a step-to-step basis. Firstly they will depend on other global universities, as they have already received many positive responses from different important universities in USA, Europe, and Asia, who are happy to help academically by providing additional professors and skills.

    However, the Dominican Fathers predict that the need for foreign academic inputs will decrease in the future, as the college will start depending almost totally on its own professors and lecturers, who have received their post-graduate education outside Iraq. There are still more to come and when those post-graduates will be back in Iraq they will certainly enhance the level of education at the Popular University.

    The university will encourage women to enter into further studies.

    A management group will be established for the university. This group will make decisions on the running of the university, admittance and registration of students.

    The courses will be arranged according to academic need and contents by the professors in conjunction with the management group.

    The curriculum will be of international standard and content.

    The library will have a professional librarian, as will the internet facilities.

    The university will also employ a professional accountant and maintenance workers will also be employed.

    There will be cooperation with the Ministry for higher Education and the University of Baghdad, so that the curriculum will be recognized as valid for higher studies, giving the graduates recognized academic degrees.


    The university will cater for an estimated 250 students initially.

    It is envisaged that the university will start working fully within a period of two years and have more than 400-500 students provided that funding will be available by other donors for the full building program.

    The engineering and architectural report refers to a multi stage project. The Popular University project can, however, be started this year with the existing buildings and then gradually complete the building projects as planned.

    The Dominican Fathers has already started organizing the staff and preparing for the new year of the new university.

    The consultant architectural and engineering office has also started submitting the drawing plans to get the necessary building licenses.

    Financial aspects:
    There will be no rent to pay, as the Dominican Fathers are the landlords.

    With all these factors and after building some essential building extensions the Dominican Fathers can have a partial start within a month.

    The university project is not a too complicated project, especially when some professors are ready to give their efforts almost free of charge at the beginning.

    The students can possibly afford to give a small payment that can partially fulfill the starting requirements.

    There are also some non-governmental and charity organizations who are happy to support the Dominican Fathers in the beginning.

    We are going to make a serious campaign to introduce our college and its humanitarian goals through the media and especially in the local newspapers.

    The university management group will coordinate the project.

    It must be made clear that the donor will only support the university for the first year. However, it will not be out of the question that further financial support can be given. All efforts must be made by the university to gain financial support elsewhere for the future or make itself sustainable by collecting fees or other ways of obtaining the necessary funds.

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