Trans-disciplinary online course building: A first meet-up in Erlangen, Germany

From May 16th to 20th, the Germany hub hosted, in Erlangen, Germany, the trans-disciplinary meeting for the DAAD-IVAC project titled “Ethical Global Partnerships, Resources and Sustainability: Virtual Collaboration in an interdisciplinary and intercultural inverted classroom”. Dr Lavinia Hirsu (University of Glasgow), Dr Mia Perry (Online – University of Glasgow), Joseph Watuleke (Makerere University), Dr Sizwe Mabaso (University of Eswatini) & Dr Raihana Ferdous (Oxford-Brookes University) travelled to Erlangen and were warmly welcomed by Prof Daniel Koehn, Dr Anette Regelous, Jakob Machleidt, Daniel Hafermaas & Dr Johannes Wiest, all from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. Their participation in and contributions to the event were hugely appreciated and integral to the success of the planned activities.

From left to right – Sizwe Mabaso, Daniel Koehn, Anette Regelous, Lavinia Hirsu, Raihana Ferdous, Daniel Hafermaas, Johannes Wiest & Joseph Watuleke.

During this week, all project partners jointly finalised the trans-disciplinary, interconnected learning modules for the postgraduate course. The final aims are to enhance digital and inter-cultural skills including geologic knowledge about the countries’ resources under the aspect of sustainability and ethical partnerships across the cultures of tutors and students with a global virtual perspective, and to develop a best-practice case for the wider community.

The project partners developing content for the online course

“The activities we developed in Erlangen enabled us to lock in valuable time for focussed collaboration. The in-person work allowed us to align our thinking about how the different parts of the course we are currently developing can work in synergy. The time to also know each other not only as researchers but also as people who come from different backgrounds, lives, and stories added a crucial dimension to the ‘soul’ of our collaborative work.” – Dr Lavinia Hirsu, University of Glasgow

“The week in Erlangen has increased my understanding of the project and my role. It improved my conceptualization of what we need to do and what the expectations are. As a result, it shaped my understanding of my role and built my confidence. I was able to contribute comfortably to the design and development of the trans-disciplinary course.

The week was also relevant for team building. I had met the Germany, Glasgow, and Eswatini teams on zoom but did not know them well. Team building was achieved, and at the end of the week, we knew each other well and committed to building a stronger network. The members of the German hub were so welcoming and caring. They made our stay in Germany interesting. Besides the project work, they provided us with a fascinating tour of the region. Visiting nearby cities such as Nuremberg and Munich helped me to put the European History that I studied in High School into perspective.” – Joseph Watuleke, Makerere University

“It sounds comprehensible to communicate, organize and work solely with virtual tools, if you start an educational project with an international team. Especially with the perspective of teaching it internationally. I stepped into this project as replacement of Dr Theresa Nohl, the project coordinator at FAU. Prior to this week, I had none to small connections to the team members. Meetings before our project week were formal gatherings, with one-dimensional people without personal background and connections. But seeing the team for the first time, not just on my screen, and being able to work together with direct responses and discussions adds so much more to the whole project. For me, meeting the members in person changed this loose group into a team.“ – Daniel Hafermass, FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg


IMPACT STORY: How an SFA Webinar influenced the curricula of an educational institution in Malawi

By Dora Nyirenda, Research Administration, Malawi Hub

Edited by: Alex Maxwell, PGR, UK

During the COVID-19 pandemic, while most people were locked in their homes, the internet helped SFA continue to connect The SFA Malawi Hub was privileged to host a webinar with Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil on Ecosystem Based Disaster Risk Reduction at the end of April, 2020. The Director of Mzimba Christian Vocational School (MCVS) – a faith-based educational institution in Malawi which takes on ten students every year from across Malawi – and his staff, participated in the webinar which aimed at educating, informing and sharing knowledge on Ecosystem Disaster Risk Reduction. As an institution that tries to implement technology through applied research to develop solutions for the local context, the staff were able to learn examples of how ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction can be applied to disasters.  

The webinar was a knowledge sharing session, but could prove to have a deeper and longer-lasting impact for Malawi more generally, with the MCVS staff inspired to change their curricula to include thtopic. The curriculum developed through the webinar aims to tackle disasters such as floods, droughts, strong winds, and land-slidesLorent Mvulathe Director of Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Management of MCVS explains on how this is useful for the future of Malawians, Using the Ecosystem Based Disaster Risk Reduction information in the curriculum can help reduce vulnerability in exposed communities’It is believed that including ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (EBDRR) in the curriculum will inform people and communities on the means to saving lives and peoples’ properties through critically thinking about the different ways to tackle everyday challenges. 

Staff believe the course will help students to understand the symbiotic interdependence between variables within the ecosystem which will then mitigate communities from destroying the local ecosystems. The knowledge gained can then be disseminated countrywide and support ecosystems across Malawi. There are additional requirements for the new curriculum to be successful, from teaching materials to building instructors capacities but it is believed that with this support, communities across Malawi will be better equipped and more resilient to dealing with the damaging effects from natural disasters.  

*Post based on an interview with Mzimba Christian Vocational School Director and Staff (Interviewer: Dora Nyirenda) 


Whose Crisis | Project Management Workshop

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February 2021 - Waste Management in primary schools

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December 2020 - Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation

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ESRC Festival of Social Sciences

The Whose Crisis project will participate to the 2020 ESRC Festival of Social Sciences (FoSS) which will take place online from Nov 7th to 15th.

Although COVID-19 is a health issue, the crisis is far more than a health crisis. It is a social and cultural one that is currently poorly understood and minimally represented in the context of the Global South. The Whose Crisis? event will showcase and explore the essential social science expertise and insights required to provide critical insights to the complex nature and sustainable pathways to recovery of this pandemic. In this way, the social sciences are positioned to inform and contribute to more equitable global responses including those related to health, policy, economics, and education. Decisions, perspectives, and opportunities are being made and missed every week as the global condition shifts. It is possible that the peak of the pandemic is yet to happen in Africa and the unintended consequences of an unchecked monolithic Northern narration of this global issue will be devastating to already vulnerable populations. This social science event contributes to an international project that is an important part of the re-balancing of knowledges and perspectives.

Register to the event

AWOC distributes 1,353 learning packages to vulnerable youth

By Dalton Otim, Research Administrator of the Uganda hub

Through AWOC, the Uganda hub secured a small grant/donation from a member of Gutau’ Catholic Parish in Austria, in response to Education Support during the COVID-19 lockdown. This was meant to serve target beneficiaries from primary schools (1,150 pupils) and secondary schools (475 students) in marginalized communities of Alebtong District, Uganda. During the COVID-19 lockdown, unlike learners from urban areas in Uganda, learners from rural communities can’t access the online learning material produced by the Ministry of Education through National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC). The grant allowed AWOC’s team to:

  1. Procure working tools to schools (laptops, printers, cartons of paper, hand washing facilities and other office supplies);
  2. Print, photocopy and distribute self-study materials to the students (Sciences and Humanities packages);
  3. Mobilize learners through radio announcement pinned class schedules in public places.

Within one month, a total of 1,353 learners were given self-study material packages. Out of 1,353 learners 55% were males and 45% were females – 70% of all learners were from primary school and 30% were from secondary school.

Achievements

The required working tools were delivered as planned allowing the production of self-study materials at the beginning of June 2020. The team managed to control the number of learners attending the sessions by making a schedule for the distribution of the materials to learners. The schedule was enforced after the team received a police warning as enthusiastic students were not following the government directives of people gathering and social distancing.

Mobilization of learners was effective through radio announcements and pinning sessions schedules in public places. These methods ensured that learners from all the district came to the distribution centre. Learners signed agreements with the organisation – they pledge to make good use of the self-study material.

Challenges and lessons learnt

  • Making sure that students and parents would follow government guidelines to restrict COVID-19 spread during distribution sessions;
  • The team did not have data about the number of students and their respective grade who would come to the centre to acquire the self-learning material. Therefore, some packages were printed in excess.
  • Some learners complained that their parents were not giving them enough time to read their books. They had to engage in domestic and garden work.
  • Candidate classes came in big numbers compared to other Classes.
  • Learners were not interested in attending teaching sessions over the radios. Some students who might have been interested in those sessions were not aware of these radio sessions (communication challenges).
  • Learners are waiting for the second term packages so there is urgent need to produce and distribute them.

To minimise the impacts of the lockdown on the education of the rural youth, there is need for AWOC to continue supporting them. Their enthusiasm and appreciation of the efforts made by AWOC is heartwarming and attest of the importance of social equity in terms of crisis. There was no other alternative due to the COVID-19 lockdown apart from the materials they received from the centre. AWOC will continue to manage and overcome the challenges associated with the current context, and the team hope to secure funds to be able to keep supporting the learners and conduct follow-up visits.


Sustainable Development and the Global South

Collaboration with Glasgow School of Art

Future Experiences: Sustainable Development and the Global South

In 2019-2020, the SFA Network collaborated with the Glasgow School of Arts – Product Design on a project entitled the Future Experiences: Sustainable Development and the Global South. You can read more about it here.

The SFA Network is very pleased to announce that the project dataset collection is now live! The record is public and can be accessed here. Many SFA Members took part to the project and we would like to thank everyone for their contribution. They are included as an author on this dataset/project.

We recommend looking at the  ‘Project Journey Map’ and the fantastic ‘Future Experiences Book’ in order to get a feel for what is there. But don’t stop there – this is a tremendously rich resource of output and know-how.  This collaboration with the future designers from the Glasgow School of Art was truly inspiring and refreshing for the SFA team. The impact of this project and the engagement with designers is translating into the recent research applications submitted by the Network.

We encourage you to use and share the material from this project.

DOI: 10.5525/gla.researchdata.1019


The University of Eswatini will host the new SFA Eswatini hub

By Dr Sizwe Mabaso, Hub Director of the Eswatini hub

The Department of Geography, Environmental Science and Planning (GEP), that is hosting the SFA Eswatini hub is under the Faculty of Science and Engineering of the University of Eswatini (Formerly the University of Swaziland). The University consist of three campuses, namely; Kwaluseni Campus (Faculties of Education, Humanities, Science and Engineering, and Social Sciences), Luyengo Campus (Faculties of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences) and Mbabane Campus (Faculty of Health Sciences).

The GEP Department strives to be a centre of academic excellence in both theory and application pertaining to in economic, urban and development geography, geo-information science, environmental social science, natural resource management, geomorphology and climate change. Its mission is to build a sound foundation for geography teaching in schools and to provide expertise, practical solutions and insight in the areas of land-use, spatial planning and the management of environmental resources through the spectrum of effective teaching, research, consultancy and community outreach.

Research in the department is founded on applying sound interdisciplinary principles and methodologically diverse scientific approaches relevant to both the natural and social sciences, in order to address key geographical and environmental questions. Much of our research has an applied and policy relevant focus applicable to a developing country context. With regards to the areas of focus, specific departmental research focus areas of the hugely diverse team include (but not exhaustive): urbanization and settlement patterns, agricultural geography, sustainability and food security, human and social geography, socio-economic analysis and surveys, climate science/modelling, climate change (adaptation and mitigation), land use and land cover change, environmental and spatial modelling, natural hazards and disasters, pure and applied wetland geomorphology (rehabilitation and management), soil erosion and land degradation (and appropriate rehabilitation),  soil/land and water resources management, drainage basin studies, waste management.