Session FT 1.27
New concepts and tools for education and capacity-building to achieve the MDGs
The session addressed issues related to the role of knowledge in capacity building in the fields of water, environment and infrastructure. New concepts an tools for more effective learning were presented, as developed and implemented by UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Educatioon and a number of its partner organisations from mainly developing countries.
The first block, entitled “On-line learning in water education: potential and challenges to reach wider target audiences”, presented experiences from the development and implementation of several on-line courses, which were jointly developed by UNESCO-IHE and partner organisations from developing countries. The benefits of e-learning for the students were pointed out, such as flexibility in time and access to learning material, adaptability to different learning styles, and opportunities for social learning when more students are attending the course at the same time. The experience of blending e-learning approaches with face-to-face learning was presented as most beneficial for the students. Some developed tools for delivering the course content were also presented.
In the second block of the session the so-called WaterMill project was presented. This project, funded by the Government of The Netherlands, is targeted at local water experts from developing countries, and it offers education and research (at Master of Science level) in different water-related fields but with special emphasis on the relations between water and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The project is carried out at UNESCO-IHE, and all research carried out within WaterMill is addressing MDGs-relevant issues. Two beneficiaries from the project – David Koech from Kenya and Mohammad Khaled Akhtar from Bangladesh (WaterMill MSc students from UNESCO-IHE) presented some key research findings from their work and the work of some of their colleagues. The two main issues addressed in their presentation were: the need for holistic approaches in solving water and sanitation problems of the peri-urban poor in Africa, as a critical MDG-related issue; and, the necessity of addressing the problems of resilience of the poor to the risks of natural disasters (such as floods and droughts) – an issue which is currently missing from the MDGs agenda. The conclusion of this block stressed the need for focused MDG-related research in water, and pointed out the benefits of shared learning among the involved local experts from different regions of the developing world.
The third block of the session presented the role of developing knowledge networks for capacity building in water, with special emphasis on international knowledge development and sharing. Two already established and active networks were presented: The Nile Basin Capacity Building Network (NBCBN), which involves research and educational institutions from all countries belonging to the Nile river basin; and the WaterNet network, involving educational and research organisations from 14 countries from the South African region. Both networks have been supported by UNESCO-IHE, but primary actors in the development of the networks are organisations from the respective regions. Development of joint and common educational programmes, together with joint research activities have been in focus for both networks. Internet-based platforms for facilitating knowledge sharing have been established, and emergence of Communities of Practice (CoPs) has been stimulated.
- Blending e-learning with face-to-face learning is recommended, whenever possible, with possibilities for linking e-learning components to degree awarding.
- E-learning approaches must be customisable to the individual learner
- Water and MDGs-related education and research should stimulate critical analysis and multidisciplinary approach.
- MDG-related knowledge sharing among water experts from developing countries during their research is highly beneficial.
- Making self sustainable knowledge networks (like NBCBN and WaterNet) may be a long-term process, but it needs to be supported because of their high potential
- Joint research within the knowledge network members from different countries is primary driver for strengthening network links.
- Development and delivering of e-learning courses demands significant effort and commitment, but has very high potential.
- Targeted education and research on MDG- and water-related topics are needed for human capacity development in countries of MDG relevance.
Establishment of knowledge networks of educational and research
- institutions from internationally shared river basins can fundamentally change the management of shared water resources.
Orientations for action
- Organisations involved in water education should start development of on-line learning courses now in order to increase their outreach.
- Water-related curricula (engineering, management or environmental) for students in (and from) developing countries should include specific MDG-relevant content. MDG-relevant research should be stimulated.
- Donors should commit to invest in establishment of international knowledge networks in developing countries with shared water resources, and maintain their commitment till the networks become self-sustainable.
Local Actions presented
Integrated River Basin Management online learning experiences in China
This local action was covering the experiences of one specific on-line course (on IRBM) as delivered to Chinese participants. Main stakeholders were local Chinese water experts who shared the learning experience with each other and with some of their colleagues from different countries. The positive experiences from the first runs of the course show that the potential for reaching the Chinese target group with these new approaches is very high.
Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Capacity Strengthening project for Africa
This local action is part of the above mentioned WaterMill project and addresses strengthening of human capacity in Africa for achieving the MDGs. The research activities were carried out by 15 Masters researchers from Africa: 6 from Ethiopia, 3 from Kenya, 2 from Tanzania and Uganda, and 1 from Zambia and Mozambique. Different aspects of water and environmental engineering and management were addressed, but all linked into the MDGs. Key research theme presented: integrated solutions for the water and sanitation problems of the peri-urban poor.
Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Capacity Strengthening project for Asia
Similar to local action 2, but for the Asian region. The researchers involved were 5 in total: 3 from Bangladesh, 1 from Vietnam and 1 from Sri Lanka. Key research theme presented: resilience of the poor to risk from natural disasters.
Capacity Building and Networking for the Water Sector in the Nile River Basin
This local action presents the current development of NBCBN discussed above. The pilot project created so far national networks in six countries and six regional research clusters (including thirteen research groups). Each cluster is coordinated by a different Nile basin country and focuses on a specific research topic: Egypt (GIS and Modeling), Sudan (River Morphology), Ethiopia (River Structures), Kenya (Flood Management), Uganda (Environmental Aspects), Tanzania (Hydropower Development). Joint research is an ongoing activity.