Monday 31 October 2016

Petrosains Program at Garraf, Iraq – An Experience of a Lifetime

Last August, PETRONAS Carigali Iraq had yet again invited Petrosains to conduct one of their CSR intiatives. Since venturing into Iraq in 2010, PETRONAS has embarked on many CSR projects with a core focus on education, capability building and skills development, with Petrosains’ program now being consistently a key feature. 

Petrosains was tasked with only one mission – to inspire and teach participants to use and embrace our signature hands-on approach in showcasing the fun and interesting learning of science. 

Getting to the intended destination itself, which is the Garraf Base Camp, was not a walk in the park. From the Basra Airport customs, to the security checkpoints, the thorough screenings made us very anxious. Not to mention, we were detained at one of the checkpoints for 2.5 hours, and was brought and held at a police station for another 2.5 hours! What was supposed to be a 5 hour journey, became twice as long. Despite the exhausting journey, we soldiered on and conducted the program on the very next day. 

Participants included teachers and students of schools from villages in surrounding areas of the Garraf Base Camp. We conducted a 7-consecutive day program, whereby the first 3 days were specifically for teachers while the remaining 4 days were focused on the students. We conducted science shows, workshops, and brought various mini shows, exhibits and math kits. Here are some of the highlights of the trip:

The teachers having a good laugh while trying out our hand-twisting energizer

Orchestra of the rain, led by Romy (Sound Show)

When it comes to making and flying a glider, children and adults alike were very much excited.

A short visit to one of the nearby school brought tears to our eyes...

The school building was made from mud, and thus would get extremely cold in the winter

The interior of one of the classroom. This small classroom is sometimes crammed up to 
40-50 students

The Bubble Show was a hit, not only with the children, but with the teachers as well! We came up with the idea to make the participants repeat “Sabuun – Ma’ – Sabuun” (Soap – Water – Soap) with hand gestures, just to make sure that they remember the 3 layers of a soap film. Apparently, it works, and the phrase was stuck on everyone’s mind, even the PETRONAS staff who assisted us!

The biggest challenge was the language barrier. Most of the participants were not able to converse even in basic English. We had to resort to using exaggerated body language, and eventually picked up a few useful Arabic words. What’s important was that by introducing activities that used mostly common and household items, and according to the school syllabus, this program will be sustainable in the sense that the participants can then replicate the activities. All in all, we managed to conduct 3 sessions of teacher programs, engaging a total of 106 teachers, and 8 sessions of student programs, with a total of 487 students.

This invaluable experience definitely made us grow us both personally and professionally. The trip itself was an adventure of a lifetime. We hope that PETRONAS Carigali Iraq will invite Petrosains again next year!

Shared by Nurhayati Zulkifli
Guest Blogger

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