The Martyr S. Dr Mihemed Nuri Dersimi Academy is the main centre for knowledge exchange in Makhmur. Training begins after having finished high school, but one should not assume that learning is only for the young: the students’ ages range from 18 until up to 70 years old. One is never too old to learn. There are approximately 12 teachers and 70 students, but the numbers change each year. Men and women share classrooms and common areas.
It was founded in 2012 given the need of collective training of Makhmur’s population. The whole town joined forces to build its headquarters. A large building, with various classrooms, common areas and a very green garden.
A project such as the Academy should not take us by suprise, since the kurdish movement gives primary importance to learning. There exist two main paths inside the Academy, one closer to a trades school, and another of ideological nature. The Academy is expected to train the social cadres, those who are to dinamize the structures of self-government. To this day the students can choose amongst four paths: medicine, ideology, teacher training or linguistics. Some people go to the Academy as an alternative to university, while others attend after having graduated, with the aim of reinfocing their specialty from a social, communitarian and integral point of view.
Kurmanci (pronounded kurmanji) grammar is also of great importante. Despite the fact that it is the mother tongue of the inhabitants of Makhmur, they were not able to learn to read and write until the founding of the town, given the restrictions of the Turkish government. In fact, the first kurmanci text books, used now in Rojava, were made in Makhmur.
Learning is mainly based on the socratic method, by which the teacher takes the role of a master, while the students of disciples. Through a continued discussion, the different topics are covered. Teaching is not uni-directional, but it is through debate amongst peers that the guidelines for learning are established. All of the people we have spoken to agree that the boundary between teachers and students is very diffuse. They all consider themselves students, and they strongly beleive that learning is a process that occurs throughout the whole of life and cannot be limited to ones role inside a classroom. The teachers take part in the Academy voluntarily, so they also have a great will to learn.
While the education that the State offers through university is targeted to serve its interests, the Academy offers and education aimed to serve oneself and the community. In spite of having an initial curriculum proposal, the contents of each of the four paths discussed above are eventually fixed through the interest and by agreement of both teachers and students. This is also the reason that there is no regulated evaluation method, there are no grades nor are there rigid rating structures as exams. Assesment comes about through reaserch projects by which the students learn at the same time as they are evaluating. To finish their studies, each student carries out a reaserch project, and by presenting their thesis they can finally graduate and obtain a certificate. This does not mean however that they have finished lerning for their whole life.
They are organised internally through weekly commitees. In addition, they prepare a monthly report for the camp’s General Assembly, so that the whole of Makhmur is informed of what is done in the Academy. The students get together in their own commitee, by means of the Tek-Mil method for assemblies. It is based on assessing the work and experiences thrugh self-criticism and constructive criticism of others, always based on respect and expressed in a respectful fashion. Criticism and critical capacity is at the base of all learning.
Finally, we have been told that they face difficulties is accessing certain learning materials, as computers with internet and medical material to pracrtce on. Many NGOs and international organisms have promised the Academy material aid, but they assure it has never arrived. This makes the existence of this place even more admirable. Furthermore, they would like to enlarge the topics and areas of knowledge covered, and to develop Academies in other cities and towns of Kurdistan.
Long life to learning, especially all that we have to learn from a place like this.