December 28, 2010
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The Principle of Growth and Change - By Helene Sairany

In Kurdistan, I learned there is a desire for a quick and easy way to achieve quality of life without going through the needed or the natural process of work and growth that make this quality possible.

In Kurdistan, it is about quantity and not quality, it is about symbol and not substance, it is about treating the symptoms and not the underlying cause of a chronic disease, and it is about wealth without work.

In all of life, there are sequential stages of growth, development, and progress.  For example, a child learns to turn over, to sit up, to crawl, and then to walk and run.  Each step is important and each one takes time.  No step can be skipped.  Also for sequential growth to occur, there needs to be some parental involvement and planning. This concept of growth is vital in all phases of life, and in all areas of societal development, whether in academia, building an infrastructure, or an institution.  We need to understand a concept, teach it, learn it, and build a harmonious relationship with it.

So let me ask, what will happen when we attempt to shortcut a natural process in our growth and development?  Let me address this problem by an example in sports to ease the understanding of the concept.  If you are only an average tennis player but decide to play at a higher level in order to make a better impression, what will be the result?  Would a positive thing alone enable you to compete effectively against professionals?

I was sitting at an international’s office one day and I met a 61-year old lady who was interested to go abroad to do a master’s and a PhD degree.  “Does she even know what she is getting herself into?” I asked myself.  I must admit that I did admire her courage for wanting to pursue a higher education at such a late age but then I asked myself, is positive thinking alone enough?  What if you were to lead your friends to believe you could master in a PhD degree while you are missing the competent writing, reading, and presentation skills needed to succeed in such programs.  The answer is obvious.  It is impossible to shortcut this developmental process.  Nature requires steps for a normal development and progress, and a short cut of this sort will lead to disappointment and frustration along the way. 

The more I shadow offices in the region and the more I network, the more I learn that institutions fail to place the right person in the right position.  By the right position, I mean the best fit, the most competent, and the one who has years of experience and specialization.  Having a respected degree of some sort does not by any means make you the most fit for a particular position that differs from your specialty.  And having a positive attitude that you are the best fit is not enough.  Why?  Because this whole process goes against the natural steps of healthy growth that a society needs, that Kurdistan needs.  The rationale that I am trying to make here is as simple as a ten-point scale.  If I am at level two in any field, and desire to move to level five, I must first take the step toward level three.

I’ve learned that once an individual earns a sense of position, they have increased confidence and ownership of that position, and tend to share very naturally, freely, and spontaneously.  A sense of ownership of a position, degree, etc comes before an individual may feel confident in genuine sharing and giving (1).  I’ve come to learn that individuals whom have not earned their position, are often reluctant to share and feel a sense of vulnerability that keeps them from collaborating with others.  They have never experienced what it feels like to have complete ownership of their position and this in turn, affects their sense of identity and self-worth (1)

Individuals here in Kurdistan are so fascinated by foreign technology, ideas and systems.  They admire foreign strength, maturity and practices. For example, foreign workers are granted a higher pay wage, better accommodations and better treatment.  An institution’s immediate reaction is often asking, “How can I get it?”  “How can I do it?” or “How can I possess it?”  Institutions will go as far as they can go to meet their demands to teach foreign ideas.  For a short time, these skills and techniques may appear to work. It is like trying to avoid the pain of an underlying chronic disease by taking a painkiller.  The underlying chronic conditions remains, and eventually new symptoms will appear later.

What people fail to ask is, does this foreign idea really suit me as a Kurdish institution?  And then we complain about frustrations later down the line.  We, the Schools of Pharmacy and Dentistry, are now demanding that our pharmacy and dental curriculum change to an American system.  By the American system, some suggest that it should change from a bachelor’s degree in the pharmacy and dental program to a Doctor of Dentistry and Doctor of Pharmacy.  Being from America and holding a degree of this sort, I know for a fact that students in America start this type of a degree at an age of 23, after the completion of a bachelor’s degree of some sort.  Our students in Kurdistan at an age of 17-18 are nowhere competent enough to start mastering this level of studies.  When you implement such a change in the curriculum, you would expect to have the needed facility to make this change possible.  Again, this whole process goes back to the desire for the short cut that I was talking about earlier.  We fail to study deep into the topic, we fail to plan accordingly, and we rush into implementing the foreign idea.

In conclusion, we need substance, we need quality, and we need principles.  We need more than a painkiller to treat our chronic disease that Kurdistan is suffering from.  We need to prevent and treat the underlying causes of the chronic underlying problems and focus on the principles that bring long-term results; principles that are possible to be maintained in our society. 

(1) I do owe my ideas to the great read, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Professor Stephen R. Covey.


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