By Fikadu Reta Alemayehu, Assistant Professor, School of Nutrition, Food Science and Technology, Academic Center of Excellence for Human Nutrition, College of Agriculture, Hawassa University
The project contributions have helped in our overall understanding and ability to act from a technical point of view as well as a management point of view, focusing on stakeholders & linkages and including young people and gender.
The university’s involvement in communities and businesses was weak. Involvement in the labour market has been very productive for us, we now focus more on job creation and self-employment opportunities. As a result of the labour market study, the Career Development Center was initiated.
ADJUSTMENTS IN CURRICULA
The labour market study was used to revise curricula and allowed for direct engagements. Internships and industry linkages were introduced and the bachelor degree curriculum was adjusted from a three-year programme to a four-year programme. The master programme has been adapted to the labour market demands and the PhD programme for human nutrition has been reviewed and has been operational for two years, with 15 PhD students currently enrolled.
NATIONAL NUTRITION LEADERS NETWORK
We also contributed to the establishment of the National Nutrition Leaders Network, launched in 2019. The connections are all directly linked to teaching and employability of our graduates, and our community services related to nutrition.
Efforts to introduce management and quality standards into our laboratory activities within the university were critical to creating internal capacity. More work is being done to improve the quality of the laboratory and the use of new machines, as well as machines that have not been used for various reasons. New collaborations have also been established to make use of our laboratory facilities, including research projects of PhD students.
The new volunteer organisation YESS Ethiopia (Youth and Education Support Services) was initiated by our staff, to support youth through mentorship and motivational services for students.
We have identified opportunities, among which partners who are willing to support the Ethiopian education system, like the Orange Knowledge Programme and USAID.
In some cases, change takes time, more than we estimated. An example is the time we needed to improve the laboratory management structure and more work is needed. Because we wanted to improve the structure, there are consequences for jobs and salaries and approval must come from the Ministry of Finance.
Currently, the incubation centre is just an office. A new structure is needed, with a budget at ministerial level. The responsible person now is also a lecturer, with a limited budget and no station office, facilities, task recognition or university support.
The survey opened doors for future collaborative activities, also post-project. We went to great lengths to engage with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, which led to a letter introducing the different job structures, enabling human nutrition functions within the government structures.