Centres of Excellence

WAC-SRT students’ Climate and Sustainable Development Action Club kicks-off youth-empowering capacity building

This Monday, 07th December  2020, a highly committed and motivated group of WAC-SRT students, the Climate and Sustainable Development Action Club (CSDAC), launches an innovative capacity building on “Enterpreneurship and Empowerement of Nigerien Youth in the face of Covid-19”. The project is one of 25 award-winning initiatives selected among more than 1300 applications from 14 countries where Plan International West and Central Africa operates. Strong commitment to enhancing local communities’ practices towards the SDGs and African Union Agenda 2063 –especially in regard to environmental protection, gender equality and climate change resilience, adaptation and mitigation– have been at the core of the activities of the CSDAC since its foundation in 2018.

2019 – Students from CSDAC make a nursery reusing plastic bags collected in previous environmental cleaning actions. Later, hundreds of trees are distributed in a rural village, within a CSDAC-community collaboration for desertification contention (SDG 2 and 13) 

The student organization has also been active in social media in several awareness-raising campaigns before and especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, about which they also mobilized sharing information on prevention measures. Going beyond their climate-change related mandate, CSDAC students’ actions during the pandemic show once more their dedication to improving the lives of their communities, contributing to increase the social impact of their research and of the university in their surroundings. If you want to learn more about these students’ inspiring actions, have a look at the interview! It is also worth checking out their work in their  Facebook and YouTube channels. We congratulate the  CSDAC team, especially the team that put this award-winning proposal together, for their encouraging example: Mamane Bawa Sakina, Délano Thierry Odou, Segbedji Geraldo Favi, Amal Salla Mayaki and Lémonla Armel Otekpo. And we thank our soon-to-be graduated master student Segbedji Geraldo Favi for taking the time for this interview.

On the right: CSDA team meeting, Niamey, 2019

How did you come to know about the Plan International call, and how did you and your colleagues have the idea to submit a proposal?
From May 29 to June 7 2020, Plan International West and Central Africa launched the call for application for creative, innovative, local projects with a link to address one of the challenges posed by the COVID-19. This project is known as the “Youth Challenge Fund (YCF)” and aims to finance groups/associations of young girls, boys between the ages of 10 to 23, in the 14 countries of operation of the Organization.

Therefore, applying to the YCF requires a Commitment to Act, Learn, Inspire and Share with Youth and Communities in the region. The call for applications was published on several social media, especially on Facebook, where the information was seen by Armel Otekpo (Funds miner). More than 1.300 entries were submitted for the 1st edition of the Youth Challenge Fund, a competition aimed at supporting young committed leaders in the West and Central Africa region. But only 25 were selected including the CSDAC in the category “Youth empowerment and entrepreneurship”.

What exactly is your proposal, what do you envisage with this project?
The project is entitled: Entrepreneurship and Empowerment of Nigerian Youth in the face of Covid-19. It was inspired by two significant facts with which the youth in our environment were confronted:
• High unemployment rate, women being more impacted;
• Accentuation of economic vulnerability of the majority of the population, mostly young people, living on a daily basis, with the wake of COVID-19 and restriction measures
So, the project aims to strengthen the capacity and empower of young people, especially girls, through training on the installation and deployment of solar systems for irrigation in Niger, which allows them to be operational on the market.

And how does your proposal build on what you and your colleagues have been learning and discussing within the WAC-SRT master program?
Given the interdisciplinary nature of the WAC-SRT Program, we received various courses on Solar Energy, Irrigation and the nexus Water-Energy-Food (WEF), which on the first hand give us the foundation to understand the science behind this terminology and the expertise to apply and on the other hand to be aware of the challenges our communities are facing, and what solutions are out there to be implemented in a sustainable manner. Based on that, and with the wake of COVID-19, we have built around this to propose this Youth Capacity-building project to address a gap in the society, especially in Niger, and share with our peers the knowledge we got from this program. Moreover, the tips we learned from the Workshop organised at the centre on Proposal and Research writing really helped us a lot to write a winning proposal.

When have you prepared the submission? How has the pandemic affected your work, how have you managed to discuss, meet, and how did it affect the format/idea of your proposal?
This project was written during the COVID-19 period, and the main challenge was to organise meetings among members, since restrictions were imposed on public gatherings. However, thank to technology, we were able to organise regular online meetings using Zoom or Google Meet, and keep in touch through a WhatsApp group specifically created for this project. Due to the availability of everyone and academic-related aspects, we always meet online from 11:30 PM, until the fixed objective was achieved.

How many people will join your capacity building? How many applications did you receive and how was the selection process?

We had planned to select 30 youth aged from 18 to 24 years old, from Niger, with the target of having 20 ladies and 10 men. The call for applications was accessible to potential candidates from 15 September to 02 October 2020. In order to encourage and give more details to the candidates, we also made a video.

Call for applications

We received a total of 167 applications from six countries (Niger, Benin, Togo, Burkina-Faso, Cameroon and Chad), 135 male and 32 female candidates. After the work of the selection committee on 22 October 2020, we selected 30 laureates living in Niamey to take part in the training. CSDAC members from the 1st and 2nd Batch of the WAC-SRT program have participated in the selection.

Presentation of the score grid by the selection committee coordinator.

       

Exchange with the selection committee

What do you want to achieve through this capacity-building?

With this project, our goal is to create a new generation of proactive technicians with an entrepreneurial spirit, to reduce not only the unemployment rate of young people but also to provide technical support to the population in need of integrated solutions for water, energy and agriculture. At the end of the capacity-building project, they will receive a set of technical tools (Digital Electrical meter, screwdrivers, etc.) that will allow them to start to monetise what they have learned.

What would you tell other students in Tamale, in Wa, in Niamey or in other African Excellence Centers based on your experience?
What we can say to our colleagues is that we must always think about impacting our environment and give back to the community. It is the only way for us to be part of the change we want in our community and the continent as a whole. The main driver for our project was the sense of responsibility we developed in front of the situation the youth were facing during the early moment of the pandemic as a result of the different restriction measures put in place, that prevented youth from going out to work –since they are living on a daily basis, with informal business.
We would like to invite our colleagues to believe in themselves. Putting together their effort and expertise, they can achieve more than they can think of. They should also persevere and be ready for the sacrifice (in other words, nothing come easy). This is not the only project we submitted in that time. We have applied to three other fund challenges dedicated to COVID-19 ideas during that period, and we did not always succeed, but we kept pushing. It happened that we worked throughout the night till the morning without noticing, because what we wanted was to achieve our goal.

Call for Applications: CERM-ESA Master / PhD Scholarships 2021 in the DAAD In-Region/ In-Country Scholarship Programme

As part of the „In-Country/In-Region Scholarship Programme” DAAD offers scholarships for Master and PhD studies in Education for candidates from East Africa via the CERM-ESA programme.

Application closing date is the 15th of December 2020:

1. Please find the Call for Applications Document here and the Application Procedure here:

 

Appel à candidature pour les bourses Master CEGLA 2020

Dans le cadre des activités du Centre d’Excellence de Gouvernance Locale en Afrique (CEGLA), nous sommes heureux de porter à votre connaissance le lancement de bourses de formation Master en « Décentralisation et Gouvernance Locale » financées par l’Office Allemand d’Echanges Universitaires (DAAD).

L’ensemble des modalités à respecter et des documents à fournir pour le dossier de candidature se trouve dans les documents suivants:

Appel à candidature national bourse de formation Master de Niamey

Appel à candidature national bourse de formation Master de Bamako

Appel à candidature international bourse de formation Master de Bamako

La date limite d’introduction des candidatures est fixée au 26 septembre 2020.

 

 

Appel à candidature pour les bourses de recherche doctorale du CEGLA 2020 (PhD Scholarship Announcement)

Dans le cadre des activités du Centre d’Excellence de Gouvernance Locale en Afrique (CEGLA), nous sommes heureux de porter à votre connaissance le lancement de bourses doctorales financées par l’Office Allemand d’Echanges Universitaires (DAAD).

Les candidatures sont attendues jusqu’à la date limite fixée au 15 Octobre 2020. Les dossiers doivent être envoyés uniquement par voie électronique à l’adresse suivante : bourse[at]cegla.network

L’ensemble des modalités à respecter et des documents à fournir pour le dossier de candidature se trouvent dans le document suivant: Appel à candidature Bourse doctorale CEGLA 2020

Nous vous serions très reconnaissant de bien vouloir faire une large diffusion de l’appel à candidature.

DAAD’s Secretary General Dr. Dorothea Rüland, RUB’s Rector Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich and Chancellor Dr. Christina Reinhardt visited the South African-German Centre for Development Research

In early 2020, South Africa has welcomed and hosted the ’27th Delegation Visit for Leaders of German Higher Education Management’, organized by the International DAAD Academy. In the second week of March, 20 Presidents, Vice Chancellors and Registrars from German universities visited South African higher education and research institutions, ministries and the National Research Foundation (NRF) as well as German partner institutions such as political foundations or the German Agency for International Cooperation GIZ. During the meetings delegates received in depth insights into the South African higher education system as well as into current research focal points of the respective institutions, and were able to directly reach out for potential further cooperation partners. The delegation was accompanied by the Secretary General of the DAAD, Dr. Dorothea Rüland, and Lena von Eichborn, Head of the International DAAD Academy.

On March 12, the delegation visited the University of the Western Cape. Umesh Prawa, Head of the university’s International Relation Office, was responsible for the visit and led the programme, supported by his team and further colleagues. After a profoundly informative input by different UWC Departments, led by UWC Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof. Vivienne Lawack, hosts and guests were able to network during a fingerfood-lunch.

 

Delegates on their way to the meeting on UWC campus.
First part of the meeting, led by UWC Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof. Vivienne Lawack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the break, Ruth Knoblich, the Centre’s new DAAD Lecturer in Development Research, presented basic facts and figures about the DAAD South African-German Centre for Development Research. Her presentation led to a lively round-table talk about the Centre’s character and activities by colleagues, alumni and current students: Prof. Julian May, Director of the NRF-DST Centre of Excellence in Food Security at UWC, Director of the Institute for Social Development and one of the four Steering Committee members of the South African-German Centre of Development Research: Dr. Razack Karriem (Acting Director of the Institute for Social Development), Prof. Mulugeta Dinbabo, Dr. Coretta Jonah, Dr. Martina Lembani, Melisa Dlamini, Langton Moyo, Tamara Kaschek and Kumbula Xego.

For the Centre, it was a particular highlight to meet RUB’s Rector Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich and Chancellor Dr. Christina Reinhardt who were part of the delegation, together with the Secretary General of the DAAD, Dr. Dorothea Rüland.

From left to right – back row: Dr. Razack Karriem, Melisa Dlamini, Kumbula Xego, Dr. Coretta Jonah, Tamara Kaschek, Dr. Christina Reinhardt, Prof. Julian May, Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich, Ruth Knoblich, Dr. Dorothea Rüland; from left to right – front row: Dr. Martina Lembani, Prof. Mulugeta Dinbabo, Langton Moyo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting with the heads of the Ruhr-University Bochum Chancellor Dr. Christina Reinhardt and Rector Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich; behind: Prof. Julian May, Director of the NRF-DST Centre of Excellence in Food Security at UWC, Director of the ISD and one of the four Steering Committee members of the SA-GER CDR and Ruth Knoblich, DAAD Lecturer in Development Research at SA-GER CDR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A historical campus-walk formed the last part of the UWC visit. Prof. Premesh Lalu, Director of the DST-NRF Centre for Humanities Research at UWC, offered impressive insights into the university’s history and its role during apartheid’s times.

Prof. Premesh Lalu guiding the delegation through the University of the Western Cape-Robben Island Mayibuye Archives housed in the main library at the UWC; in the middle: RUB’s Rector Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich next to Dr. Lisette Andreae, Counsellor, Head of Education, Science, Research and Technology, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Pretoria.
Delegation in the UWC- Robben Island Mayibuye Archives; left: Umesh Prawa, Head of IRO at UWC, in front: RUB’s Rector Prof. Dr. Axel Schölmerich.
Delegation in front of the Malangatana mural inside of the UWC library, in the middle: Prof. Premesh Lalu; at the very right: Prof. John-Mark Iyi, Faculty of Law / DAAD South African German Centre for Transnational Criminal Justice TRANSCRIM.
Group picture on UWC campus; last row right: Jaco Herbst and Dr. Anja Hallacker from the DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg; last row left: Lena von Eichborn, Head of the International DAAD Academy.

The delegates later emphasized how much they enjoyed their time at UWC after participating in such multifaceted programme. They particularly underlined how impressed they were by the university’s spirit and engagement, and that they were able to set up valuable new contacts for further cooperation. For the Centre, it was a very special moment of making its networks visible: its network between former and current students, between colleagues from all institutions involved, between the leading level of UWC, RUB, and the DAAD as the Centre’s funding organization.

 

My participation at the Kick-Off Meeting – DIGI-FACE

As part of the Kenyan delegation, Susan, John & Raymond had the distinct pleasure of attending the much-awaited Digital Initiatives for African Centres of Excellence (DIGI – FACE) Kick-off Meeting held in South Africa by the world-renowned university, Nelson Mandela in Port Elizabeth. The meeting brought different scholars whose vast experience in pursuit of higher education was not only inspiring but an open door to insightful thought on the direction higher education needed to take, chiefly digital in nature, in order to stand the test of time for African Centres of Excellence (CoE). Precisely, the project aim is to develop and put into action digital learning strategies across Africa. A big part of DIGI-FACE is to enhance digital capacities of lecturers and academics and that the training of trainers (ToT) is a very crucial pillar of the project.

The kick-off meeting took place on March 3-6 with delegates drawn from universities in South Africa, Niger, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Congo, Mali, Namibia as well as Germany. Pursuant to achieving the goal, the delegates consisted of the Centre of Excellence Project leaders, Project Coordinators, Curriculum developers and the IT personnel. This was a brilliant mix in order to make the matrix of content development and dissemination complete.

At the opening session the delegates were taken through the overall aims of the initiative by the lead persons notably, Prof Ewald Eisenberg, representing project lead partner Kehl University in Germany; Prof Bernd Siebenhuener, German academic from Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg and Prof Paul Webb, Project Leader of the East and South African German Centre of Excellence for Educational Research Methodologies and Management(CERM-ESA).  A quick rejoinder on the collaborative approaches to capacity development and digitalization was brought into perspective by Professor Michael Samuel from the University of KwaZulu Natal who also doubled up as the event moderator. The meeting was officially opened by deputy vice-chancellor, learning and Teaching, Prof Cheryl Foxcroft, Mandela University who emphasized the need for all of us to make provisions for students to learn in digital spaces.

With the elaborate intro, the sessions that followed included the delegate’s reflections on their motivations; on-line learning experts presentations that shed more light into the digital classrooms; practical sessions of designing an interactive online session; Centres action steps, collaborations and partnerships; business plan; delegates visions and recommendations. The sessions were not only in-depth but quite mind-boggling in terms of reflections on the core challenges such as geographical complications, equipment deficiencies alongside proposed methodologies for accomplishing the DIGI-FACE project.

The project’s aspiration for the future could have consequences that undoubtedly would bring positive change and especially education without borders. The goal for the meeting was not only a means of documenting the problems faced by CoEs, nor was it an opportunity for CoEs to complain about the situation that they face, rather it was a critical discussion with actionable points aimed at reducing these challenges and possibly eliminating them entirely with guidance from a knowledgeable partner.

The discussions proposed scholars to take up the opportunity to create content on their own terms, with assistance from IT and Multimedia experts within the Institution, but with an eye for great and reusable content to a student, market to generate revenue for the Centre’s sustainability. The market out there consists of students willing to assimilate new information faster, with a lowered barrier to entry such as cost and time, and the reduction of time spent by students closing the physical geographical gap courtesy of antiquated forms of education.

Content in this context indicates the use of video, text, and interactive media as a delivery mechanism. By integrating open source software such as Moodle, specifically built to handle demands of heavy course material, it is by no means an end to itself, but rather the first step that scholars can take in order to achieve their personal goals and of the institution. Another valuable resource was H5P.org which utilized the power of HTML5 to create, share and reuse the content in a browser. The H5P platform is particularly useful since it can be integrated with MOODLE for added functionality.

As the conference progressed, we came to the understanding that many CoEs already have course material ready for digitization but lack the channels to take their course materials online. On that note, the question of sustainability arose on numerous occasions. Naturally, other questions were derived from this such as, would the funding partner, DAAD, provide sustainable solutions to the CoEs or would the CoEs be equipped with their own means of sustainability mutually beneficial to both students and CoEs.  These were just a few questions out of the many that came up. However, they were not all to be answered conclusively in this first meeting but rather at an ongoing basis customized to each CoEs needs. Furthermore, evaluations carried out at the end of the meeting could have captured more concerns from the delegates. At the close of the meeting, we were treated to a delicious dinner and thrilling excursion that cemented our continental bonds as well as giving us a chance to appreciate the beauty of Port Elizabeth and South Africa at large. Honestly, it was a great life experience and a real eye-opener for us all.

In conclusion, the flow of events throughout the meeting was pretty seamless under a powerful organizing team notably Prof. Eisenberg, Prof. Webb, Mike Swanepoel,  Merlin Kull, Ayanda Simayi just to mention a few. DIGI-FACE is headed for imminent success. We say a big ‘THANK YOU ‘to DAAD under the auspices of Dr Dorothee Weyler.

Digitalization-Kick-off: New Digital Infrastructure for the Network of the DAAD Centres of Excellence

On March 3-6, 2020 the Kick-off Meeting of the new digitalization project DigiFace took place at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth. DigiFace – short for “Digital Initiative for African Centres of Excellence” – is a new project funded by DAAD that aims at supporting and facilitating higher education learning and research at all DAAD African Centres of Excellence. DigiFace is setting-up tools and facilities for digital learning and knowledge exchange with the help of a central interactive digital platform. The project is going to strengthen the Centres’ digital learning, teaching and research competencies as well as the networking among all the Centres – between all institutions involved, between staff, students, and alumni.

The Kick-off meeting was the official starting-point of the new project. Delegates from all the currently 10 Centres as well as from the Centres’ Alumni Network gathered in order to exchange on the current statuses of digital infrastructure, the needs and expectations with regard to such an all comprising new digital network, the opportunities and challenges for its implementation as well as on the next steps to go.

 

The SA-GER CDR was represented by Lance Scheepers (Information Systems ISD), Enayat Hamza (Programme Manager: Training and Consultancy at the SoG), and Ruth Knoblich (DAAD Lecturer in Development Research at the SA-GER CDR).

 

 

 

 

 

Centres of African Excellence Digital Initiative Kicks Off At Nelson Mandela University

By Gillian McAinsh, Port Elizabeth

An international project kicks off this week at Nelson Mandela University to develop and put into action digital learning strategies across Africa.

The Digital Initiatives for African Centres of Excellence – or Digi-Face – aspires to open up educational access by linking geographically separate participants with user-friendly tools and technology.

The kick-off meeting from March 3-6 in Port Elizabeth has drawn delegates from universities in Niger, Senegal, Kenya, Mali and other African countries as well as Germany.

Prof Dr Ewald Eisenberg, representing project lead partner Kehl University in Germany, said the plan was to roll out Digi-Face over the entire continent.

“Sometimes there are thousands of kilometres between a supervisor and student, which makes learning complicated. There also may be unrest, or difficulties with travel,” Eisenberg said.

He listed e-learning (electronic) and m-learning (on a mobile device) as well as blended learning (a combination of traditional and digital) as possible solutions to the challenges of education in Africa.

“Blended learning is the most useful because we can adapt the various learning scenarios to what people really need,“ Eisenberg said.

However, despite high demand and motivation for e-learning, a Kehl University survey showed that very few African universities were able to access this due to lack of basic equipment and a stable internet connection.

This gap has to be bridged because, as Mandela University Learning and Teaching deputy vice-chancellor Prof Cheryl Foxcroft noted at the conference, “increasingly, if students cannot learn in digital spaces then we are not doing our job”.

Project Leader of the East and South African German Centre of Excellence for Educational Research Methodologies and Management Prof Paul Webb, also based at Mandela University, said it was important to build capacity in Africa so that all its universities could use the relevant tools.

“Our role is also to train trainers on aspects of using apparatus and digital assets provided by the project within their own areas of expertise,” Webb said. “We want to make life easier, not more difficult. And no matter what we do digitally, it depends on the content, in other words, it depends on human beings!”

German academic Prof Bernd Siebenhuener from Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg said Digi-Face would offer a variety of modules across five areas or “work packages”.

“The idea is to develop skills for everyone at the universities, not only the IT people, and that is why we will offer a range of courses. Digi-Face is for everyone,” Siebenhuener said.

Although Digi-Face has an open-source policy where access to resources is free, this week’s conference also is looking at how to generate revenue to ensure sustainability.

The German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD) – with funds from the German Federal Foreign Office – is the sponsor of Digi-Face, and Mandela University is one of the leading drivers of the project in Africa.

Mandela University will produce at least six generic modules for post-graduate students and academics on research supervision and online learning and teaching for all 11 of the DAAD funded Centres of Excellence in Africa.

 

Members of the Digi-Face Steering Committee (from left to right): Prof Andreas Pattar, Nilly Chingaté Castaño, Junes Arfaoui, Prof Paul Webb, Merlin Kull, Dr Susan Kurgat, Prof Ewald Eisenberg, Prof Bernd Siebenhuener, Prof John Chang’ach