By: Hadeel Atallah
High school students look at the majors - The Islamic University
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
Dr. Mahmoud Shatat, who holds a doctorate in water and sustainable energy technologies from the University of Nottingham, said that the disciplines related to the environment, green economy and renewable energy have promising future in both the global and local markets, he further explains “this is the time for such majors, especially since climate change is the major issue nowadays around the world, which requires a lot of specialists to reduce carbon emissions that affect the environment.”
According to his opinion, the first criterion for a student's choice of his major is passion. "If he loves it, he will do everything to succeed in it, excel and innovate. In the case of green majors, besides passion which is an essential factor in choosing this major, the student should be smart and with a good level of technical abilities.”
He added, "The Gazan society has recently begun to realize the importance of these majors, although students with grades of 97% or higher would still prefer medical school."
Frankly, he says: "My son, for example, will soon graduate high school. My role as a parent is to guide him, but it is his choice at the end and even if he gets a grade of 99% and wants to major in a subject that seems not very challenging or not special, I will respect his desire."
Focus on laboratories
In this report, Shatat tells us about his story with the most prominent turning point in his life when he traveled to Britain in 2006 to obtain postgraduate studies: “At that time in Gaza, no one cared about renewable energy or climate change, as it was limited to specialists in water and soil, apart from the technologies that are related to different energy sources.
He continues: "In fact, choosing this major was a coincidence, as it was a master's scholarship that I got from the British Council in the field of Environmental Engineering and Sustainability, and when I traveled to the United Kingdom, it was a new major in renewable energy at Durham University."
“Was it easy for you?” Dr. Shatat replied frankly saying : “Being a civil engineer, it was not easy to complete in this field, which in part requires a deep understanding of the details of electrical and mechanical energy, however, my passion towards this major led me to study remedial subjects in Britain from the disciplines of mechanical and electrical engineering until I excelled, in this major at a global level and won two international awards, the first in Britain in the field of sustainable energy in 2015, and the second worldwide in Dubai in the field of water desalination by solar energy in 2020.
It all depends on you
Another question that we asked Dr. Shatat “what is your assessment of the current green majors in Palestinian universities?” he said: “There is a trend for new majors, such as the clean energy program at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, which has been going for the last 5 years , and I taught some of the syllabus and the first batch of students graduated last year. There is another department in the College of Applied Sciences that focuses on the same specialization, but again , the problem is the general collapse of universities, and its profit-oriented approach to cover the expenses, the low quality of private universities, as well as the low grades required.”
By participating as a judge in related competitions, he found that participants applied with “green innovative ideas” even though their university major is somewhat different, yet they proved they could do it , because their passion motivated them to research and keep pace with developments.
He reassures those concerned about the future of this major after graduation -without ignoring the reality- and says that “job opportunities are very limited in the besieged Gaza strip, and the number of graduates is very large, but this does not call you to despair, take my advice and do dream about one particular job, plan on looking for an online job that you can work with one of the big international institutions remotely. This requires a lot of development of your skills and abilities that the university may not be able to teach you, especially in renewable energy and modeling programs, and climate change."
He stresses again and says: “It entirely depends on you, the university gives the basic knowledge to build on, but it does not give everything, and if you do not follow the developments and research first hand, you will be lost, especially in the field of energy efficiency and particularly in the desalination systems.”
He wishes from the bottom of his heart that the Palestinian universities in such specializations focus on the practical side as well as the theoretical side because if "this wish" is fulfilled, then the students would be ready and the path they follow afterwards would be easier.
He explains this detail by saying: "In Britain, since the beginning of the educational stages, they teach the students to be self-reliant and obtain information by themselves, after giving them basic techniques, away from the lecturing approach, and that helps open up horizons, by focusing on work in the laboratories that our local universities provide access and use at the minimum, due to the operational cost of chemicals and equipment.
On the other hand, he couldn’t hide his fascination with "British universities spending generously on laboratories and chemicals, given the availability of financial and academic support," according to what he said.
This is how horizons open up
The researcher who almost obtained his “Professor” degree told the reporter of "Afaq” about something that we should pay attention to at the academic institutions: "I have previously taught in universities in the Gulf countries, and I have found that the equipment available for research is better than that of British universities, But the difference is that in Britain the student designs and builds the devices based on his scientific knowledge, while in Arab countries it is imported from abroad, such as Japan and Europe.”
He continues: “I was in the process of obtaining my PhD, when we needed to perform some “electrical and thermal conductivity” tests for some materials in the field of energy-saving buildings, so I asked the supervising professor to provide the device for the examination. The price of the device was about 10 thousand pounds and there was no budget to cover it. At that moment this meant extra research on how to make this device.”
All could be done at that moment is that Mahmoud had two months, started research and built a device at a cost less than £500.
He smiles and comments : "Two birds with a stone, a deeper scientific understanding, saving 90% of the price of the device, and most importantly, it gave me a chance to get creative and get the development I needed in the renewable energy of different devices and ideas, in a continuous chain of innovation, which he summed up in two words, "Passion and Courage."
In conclusion, he sheds light on one of the major challenges of "green majors" in Gaza, which is the prevention of entry of the necessary materials, sensors and electronic materials required for technological development in green and renewable energy.
The final point he touched on was the inability to make connections between the factories and industries and the universities, and about that he said : “Gaza is full of brilliant minds, but we are missing a lot of materials and necessary equipment, because some of these materials have been classified by Israel as “multiple-use” and thus prevent their entry. This all affected development, because renewable energy is not only solar and wind energy, but extends to what is related to artificial intelligence, which needs several materials. This negatively affected the development in this field.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh