In many fields there are ‘leading lights’, that guide us in our journeys in figuring out sustainable futures. One of these in the world today is SEKEM, north of Cairo, in Egypt. For thirty five years, it is an extraordinary story of vision, entrepreneurship, reclamation of desert through biodynamic farming, connection with a spiritual source of inspiration that guides all action and commitment – SEKEM is the Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph meaning ‘vitality’.
As a successful business group, SEKEM has focused too on a school for local children; vocational skills; skills for people with special needs; art; music; drama; employee investment in learning and simple rituals that make possible deep connection between over 1200 people working together.
Last week Mark and I attended the Inauguration of the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development – a SEKEM-initiated project. Brand new, Heliopolis University has started with three undergraduate faculties in the initial phase. Of particular note, is the Core Programme, compulsory for all students – this includes Sustainable Development, Art, Music, Drama, Movement. Wonderful combinations of rigorous science with arts and culture are unique in a world still so bound by disciplinary apartheid. The degrees offered thus far are:
Faculty of Engineering and Technology: B. Sc. Degree in Energy Engineering, Mechatronics Engineering, Water Engineering (5 year programmes)
Faculty of Pharmacy: B. Sc. Degree in Pharmacy (5 year programme)
Faculty of Business and Economics for Sustainable Development: B.A degree in Business and Economics (4 year programme)
The Memorandum of Agreement between the Sustainability Institute, Heliopolis University and the SEKEM Group is a statement of intent to explore much together – in our search to contribute to sustainable African futures, from Cairo to Cape Town. In the main, these include an HU undergraduate degree facilitated by the SI; our masters programme being explored for use at HU; staff and student exchanges and multiple research strategies. In addition, SEKEM and the SI are committed to becoming ‘places as teacher’ – i.e. learning in context, where transformative learning is made further possible by being in a place that engages on a daily basis the challenges of living sustainably.
View a video of the SEKEM initiative below: