The African continent has never been in greater need of qualified demography graduates than as at present. Sub-Saharan Africa is still beset by high population growth which is closely related to poverty, food insecurity and poor health, amongst many other outcomes. There is an increasing burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS, obesity and malnutrition. Higher education is a significant driver in supporting the establishment of effective health and population programmes, and also in creating the social and economic conditions that will enable their implementation and impact.
“Strengthening Training and Regional Networks in Demography” is a partnership of five southern African universities that aims to enhance the institutional and academic capacities of higher education institutions in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) by strengthening undergraduate and postgraduate demographic training, combined with the promotion of inter-institutional networking to develop long-term co-operation and collaborative research.
Institutional Capacities in Academic Leadership
The first set of actions will identify the academic leadership development needs in relation to research and teaching in demography and the constraints through internal and external factors. Academic leadership involves taking the lead in the building of capacities and skills, curriculum design and development, and application of up-to-date research findings into the curricula. The identification of the different universities’ needs will be facilitated through the development of an analysis tool in collaboration with the project partners in a workshop. The results of the assessment will inform the training activities to take place in the later stages of the project.
Relevance of Demography Training to Development in the SADC Region
Alongside the identification of the institutional needs, the developmental needs of the SADC region will be sought from government officials, the SADC Secretariat, and major development organisations such as the UNFPA, UNDP, and the World Bank. They will be assessed alongside the current demography curricula in the partner institutions to gauge the extent that the programmes embrace the articulated needs of the countries and regions and to ensure that demographic training is aligned with the priorities of potential employers of graduates.
A further strand of assessment will look into the burden of non-communicable diseases and the levels of overweight and obesity among adults and under-nutrition among mothers and children. This review, which will include secondary analysis of existing demographic and health data, will serve as a hands-on example of embedding research into teaching.
Teaching and Learning Capabilities
STARND will provide a forum for teaching and learning activities in the six higher education institutions involved in the action. Closer links between the partners in both teaching and research will ensure that the benefits of the project will last past the funding period, while annual colloquia will aim to continue and promote further collaboration between institutions in the region. The action will attract interest from government authorities, the Southern African Development Community, and other development partners who will welcome the project because it provides a platform for identifying training needs of the countries.
Improved teaching material and online resources for students and teachers will be developed for use in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. At least 200 undergraduates and 100 postgraduates will benefit from these online materials during the life of the project. Online material will eventually be accessible to other countries in the SADC region. The graduates from each of the programmes involved in the action will be aligned to the needs of the region, with knowledge of the latest research and techniques for analysing priority development areas of the region. The institutions themselves will benefit through the application of the needs analysis tool, which can be implemented in further departments, thereby enhancing teaching and research across a range of subjects alongside demography.
Regional Networks in Demography Training
A key aspect of these sets of activities is a yearly colloquium of academic staff and postgraduate students to share experiences in teaching and research. These will enhance networking and collaborative research, with short courses delivered on demographic topics and research skills that have been identified through the institutional needs assessment.
|Project Coordinator||University of Southampton|
Prof. Nyovani Madise
University of Southampton
School of Social Sciences
Southampton SO 17 1BJ
Tel: 0044 23 8059 2534