Lessons from Disaster in Libya
In our new bulletin, Al-Fanar Media brings you a selection of our most prominent stories and news about higher education in the Arab world.
Could scientific research have helped local communities prepare for and mitigate the disastrous effects of Hurricane Daniel in Libya, especially in the coastal city of Derna? The answer from scientists and emergency management specialists is a resounding yes.
The hurricane struck northeastern Libya on 10 September 2023 with fierce winds and heavy rains that caused damage across the region, but nowhere was the scale of destruction greater than at Derna. Two dams upstream from Derna burst during the storm, unleashing a flood that collapsed homes and swept a swath of the city out to sea. Nearly 4,000 people are known to have been killed, ReliefWeb reported, and the toll could go far higher, as search and rescue operations continue.
While the storm’s path and timing could not have been predicted far in advance, the potential catastrophe facing Derna was well known. The danger posed by the two dams was identified in a study published by a Libyan researcher nearly a year before the crisis occurred.
In the wake of that disaster, Al-Fanar Media talked to several Libyan academics about the role of Libyan universities in confronting the effects of natural disasters like the hurricane, and how government leaders and policy experts could learn from university research and put its findings to use.
Many academics criticise the lack of interaction between the government and the country’s universities and policy makers’ apparent lack of interest in the results of scientific research. Read about this and more in our bulletin.
Al-Fanar Media editor-in-chief
News from the Region:
It’s ‘Climate Future Week’ at Dubai’s Museum of the Future
“Climate Future Week” is running through Saturday this week at the Museum of the Future, in Dubai. The museum organised the event in collaboration with the Dubai-based interdisciplinary think tank Fiker Institute.
According to the Emirates News Agency (WAM), government ministers, senior officials, business leaders and sustainability experts from across the Gulf region and the globe will participate in the week’s 20 dialogues and sessions. The discussions will focus on several themes, including the role of technology in climate action, the role of entrepreneurship in developing innovations that support climate resilience, and the importance of enhancing climate awareness and human behaviour to achieve climate goals.
Nominations Sought for Prize Honouring Contributions to Arab Security
Nominations for the 2023 Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Award for Arab Security are open for another month, the Ministry of Higher Education in the Yemeni government based at Aden reminded researchers this week.
The award, named for the late Saudi Crown Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz (1934–2012), is given in five categories: the Outstanding Security Performance Award, the Pioneering Security Programmes Award, the Security Studies Award, the Media Creativity Award, and the Security Invention Award. Each prize is worth an estimated $100,000. The deadline for submitting nominations is October 31. For more details, click here.
After Derna Floods, Libyan Academics Discuss Disaster Awareness
In the wake of the tragic flooding at Derna, in eastern Libya, this month, the College of Science at the University of Tripoli has organised a symposium on “The Role of Science Colleges in Producing Studies and Raising Awareness of Natural Disasters”.
In a statement, the Ministry of Higher Education in the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity said that the seminar would discuss assessing and managing risks to the environment and public health, using geophysical methods to study dams and monitor their structures, chemical pollution in floodwaters, and the role of geographic information systems and remote sensing in disaster management, seismic activity in Libya, and climate change and its impact on the environment and local communities.
Algeria Hosts International Forum on Quantitative Sciences
The International Forum on Quantitative Sciences, held in Algiers this week, brought together world-renowned experts to exchange ideas about applications of quantitative science in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), drug development, bioinformatics, and cybersecurity.
Participants in the forum’s live and online seminars included prominent scholars like the French scientist Alain Aspect, a specialist in both optics and quantum physics who was a co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics.
According to the Algerian Press Service, the forum, held Sunday and Monday, also gave university students, researchers, and representatives of the industrial sector an opportunity to explore the concepts and tools of the quantitative sciences, including quantum computing.
Biography Chronicles Egyptian Heart Surgeon’s Rise to International Acclaim
A new biography of the renowned Egyptian heart surgeon Magdi Yacoub follows his life from his formative years in Egypt to his early success at Cairo University to his long and distinguished career in the United Kingdom.
Titled “A Surgeon and a Maverick: The Life and Pioneering Work of Magdi Yacoub”, the book is due out in October from the American University in Cairo Press. It was written by two veteran journalists, Simon Pearson and Fiona Gorman.
In announcing the book’s release, the AUC Press describes Yacoub as “an outsider who succeeded against the odds”. For his pioneering advances in cardiac surgery, he was knighted in 1992, and in 2014 he was awarded the British Order of Merit. The authors credit Yacoub with transforming the treatment of children with congenital heart disease and with performing some of the first heart transplants in Britain and the first heart-lung transplants in Europe.
Today, the publisher writes, Yacoub is still expanding the boundaries of medical knowledge and surgical know-how. He is also taking heart surgery to new places, developing centers of excellence across Africa, including in Egypt.
- Also see: American University in Cairo’s President: We Need the Humanities to Solve Today’s Problems
From Al-Fanar Media:
Al-Fanar Media highlights the work of a Libyan researcher who warned that the city of Derna, on Libya’s northeastern coast, faced a potential catastrophe if two neglected dams above it were not urgently maintained. That warning, in a paper published by Abdelwanees Abdul-Aziz Ramadan Ashoor nearly a year before this month’s disastrous flooding at Derna, stated that recurring floods in the Derna River Valley had become a “continuous threat to the residents of the valley and the city.”
Ashoor noted that floods had occurred in the river valley five times since 1942 and called for taking immediate steps to ensure regular maintenance of dams. The failure of political leaders to act on warnings like Ashoor’s contributes to the belief among Libyan academics that there is a missing link between scientific research, academic institutions, and the Libyan government in dealing with the crises and disasters that the country is going through. Read more in this article.
After putting a hold on admitting new students, Toronto Metropolitan University–Cairo reportedly has offered the 39 students enrolled the opportunity to complete their studies in Toronto, Canada. TMU–Cairo, previously known as Ryerson–Canada, started classes in September 2022, with programmes in fashion, media production and sport media, as well as several engineering disciplines, before it took its latest decision to hold on admitting students. Read more in this article.
Tips and Resources
As Arab universities kick off a new academic year, many university students will be looking for the best study apps that can help them achieve academic excellence. Al-Fanar Media took a look at what some tech experts are saying about the best study apps and came up with a short list of suggested apps that can help students succeed. Read more in this article.
Each year, the Tuwaiq Sculpture symposium invites both local and international sculptors to propose innovative ideas for large-scale public artworks, and the winners are invited to come to Riyadh and create their sculptures.
In an interview with Al-Fanar Media, Sarah Alruwayti, the symposium’s director, discussed highlights of 2023 edition and the symposium’s local and international significance. Sculptures from the symposium recently appeared across the Saudi capital as part of Riyadh Art, an initiative that aims to turn the city into “a creative canvas”. Read more in the interview.
Al-Fanar Media maintains a database of quality scholarships available to Arab students, which we continuously update. To stay up-to-date on the latest scholarships available for study at universities around the world, check the Scholarships section here, and watch for updated feedback on free learning opportunities in our News and Reports section, here.
Recently posted scholarship announcements include:
- Saïd Foundation Scholarships for Postgraduate Study in the U.K.
- Full Scholarships at Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, in the U.A.E.