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Interview with owner and founder of EU Halal

“Palestine, as any other nation should concentrate in training towards providing relevant job skills, because this is the best approach towards empowering people to seize employment opportunities...”

Tayeb Habib

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ROBOTICS IN PALESTINE

 

Ensuring that all Palestinian children and adolescents have access to quality Education.

 

Close to half a million children in Palestine require access to quality education apart from the humanitarian assistance. The on-going conflict and violent episodes in Palestine has pose challenges and threats to the fulfilment of children’s education and their future potential. Children experience distress, fear and intimidation through constant exposure of economic hardship, conflicts and pre-existing poverty. The entry of young Palestinians into the job market also facing challenges as lack of skills building, internships and career development support programs. Many young adults experience skills which did not match the job requirements, which in-turn affects their motivation to continue learning. Thus, developing life-skills education programme is therefore critical to enhancing young people’s future integration in the job market especially in Palestine.

Recently, we spoke to Tayeb Habib, the owner and founder of EU HALAL, a private Muslim-owned Halal company that offers consulting and certification in Halal and Tayyib products for national and international markets based in Portugal. An interesting interview about his experience and involvement in Palestine, so let’s hear what he has to say.

Can you share with our readers your involvement with Palestine.

Who is not aware of what is going on in Palestine? Anyone that watches news on TV or reads newspapers will think that there is something going on in the Holy Land, and that Palestine is a serious issue in international affairs that has been going on for many decades. Being a Muslim, and knowing that Islam´s 3rd holiest place after Makkah and Madina is in Jerusalem, of course I get involved, and I do the least of praying for Peace and Justice in Palestine. Photo credit: MiddleEastEye

One of the important areas is Vocational Education and Technical Training, what are some suggested areas for Palestine and why?

 

In an increasingly technological world, skills and Vocational Education and Technical Training are so important that most countries of the world allocate special budgets towards these two areas. Palestine, as any other nation should concentrate in training towards providing relevant job skills, because this is the best approach towards empowering people to seize employment opportunities or equip them for self-employment. Photo credit: Robotic Soccer

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You mention Robotics, can share with us briefly your experience with Robotics?

What I propose is “Robotics in Schools", based on the experience of my country Portugal, where we have had a big success in attracting the youth towards technologies. Portugal is now a top contender in events like RoboCup, in direct competition with countries like the USA, Germany and Japan. My former company Aliatron, in collaboration with ANPEE, the Portuguese Association of Teachers of Electricity and Electronics, introduced an artisanal robot named “DEAR Robot”, back in 2006/2007. The late Portuguese Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Mariano Gago embraced the DEAR Robot project of ANPEE by providing ministerial funds. Most of the electronic components and specially the microcontroller that is the “brain” of the printed-circuit board were supplied by my company. Some 48 teachers were trained in 2006/2007 in building the robot that was capable of following a line, negotiating through a maze in search, rescue missions and performing robotic dance. The project ran for 3 years, but ended up bringing Robotics in Portuguese schools. Photo credit: Search and Rescue Robocup 2018 Montreal

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Why is Robotics important in Palestine?

 

Robotics in schools can be a beacon of hope for Palestinian kids, their parents and families. In Portugal, parents and family follow the progress of their kids in joining as the spectators and involve themselves in encouraging the future technicians and engineers embodied in the kids. Amazingly little children are quick to learn the programming as their minds are still flexible. The most important skill the kids develop is working in teams when they build the robots with the help of their teachers. Teachers are the most important component so they have to be taught how to build the robot and teach the kids.

There will be challenges in introducing Robotics in Palestine, from political (alleged dual use applications) to materials (available and accessible) and so on, what are your suggestions?

 

Robots contain most of the components that are found in home appliances and phones. Mobile phones contain sensors such as orientation and tilt, GPS and accelerometer, that are found in robots. So there is no issue of dual use applications. And we are talking of kids that will concentrate on the nitty gritty of programming (coding) rather than understand the inner electronics. Israel is a top school Robotics country in the world, so most tools such as pliers, soldering irons and electronic components can all be sourced locally. Photo credit: Robotic Soccer by digitaltrends.com

 

Assuming we can overcome such challenges, what area of Robotics are quick wins on teaching / learning and application with prototypes?

 

Using the same approach as we did in Portugal with line following, search and rescue in a maze, robotic dancing, these could be the first robots. These robots will be built locally with initial kits supplied per adherent school. Teachers will be trained in building robots and to guide the students. A comprehensive and planned approach will start showing results within 6 months as we have to also respect the normal school activities. Robotics in schools will be an extra-curricular subject.

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Let's say we now have qualified (certified?) Robotics young people, it then becomes about access to opportunities, from jobs to launching Startups (requiring paying customers) and so on, how to connect them to making money, getting contracts?

The aim of Robotics in Schools is not to qualify young people for job opportunities, but this can be achieved with Vocational Training programmes. What it may achieve is to generate interest in Science and Engineering. The issue of Vocational Training is a whole different subject matter that needs adequate planning and funding to respond to local needs. I have experience in this area of Vocational Training of over 40 years as my former two ex-companies were providers of equipment. We also trained teachers and had our role in Portugal and in my native country Mozambique.  Photo credit: São Paulo Robotics Competition: Brazilian young people during pandemic

Can your home country, Portugal, help?  Other countries?

The Portuguese government will need to be approached and I am sure it will be sympathetic to Robotics in Schools in Palestine. I am sure Portugal and the EU can be great contributors in running a 3 to 5 years’ project of Robotics in Schools. Robotics in Schools prepares the kids to enter international competitions such as RoboCup. At the beginning the best one or two teams can come to Portugal and compete in Portuguese National Robotics Festival (Festival Nacional de Robótica) before going to international competitions.

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What would you like to see about Robotics in Palestine five years from now? How realistic is it?

 

Probably there will be some hurdles, but I think eventually Palestine will have its own known Robotics in Schools program that will make the kids, their parents and families quite proud. I believe Palestine will participate in World events such as RoboCup and we may start to see many young people thinking of being technicians and engineers. Photo credit: Portuguese National Robotics Festival 2018’

What can readers, Palestinian diaspora and friends of Palestinians do to support Robotics in Palestine?

 

Most surely readers, Palestinians in diaspora and friends can support with small donations and thus contribute towards Robotics in Schools in Palestine. We will all love to see Palestinian kids coding and showing their skills and applaud them for their achievements.

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