Recent reviews of scientific capacity building in the population sciences in the developing world indicate a skills dearth which is particularly acute in Africa. This compromises the ability of African scientists—ironically, those most-knowledgeable of that context—to contribute to the global discourses on health and development. It is precisely also this human capacity that is required for the monitoring and evaluation of progress toward development targets such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Beyond this human capacity gap, there is also a knowledge gap because data collection ventures, such as the recent INDEPTH surveillance data, are almost exclusively from rural areas, leaving urban poverty under-researched and poorly understood. Evidence of the constraints faced by governments striving to achieve the MDGs is urgently needed, especially regarding development in rapidly urbanizing societies.
This project aims to improve the quality of learning and teaching at HEIs in Africa and UK through integration of practical field experience in the postgraduate curricula of population sciences students at the universities of Southampton, Ghana, Cape Coast (Ghana), Ibadan, and Sierra Leone.
The target groups and beneficiaries of this action are not only postgraduate students, but also academic staff and residents of poor urban communities. Academic staff will benefit through continuing professional development, networking, exposure to the most up-to-date methodologies and resources, and availability of relevant teaching datasets. Through the creation of a training field site in a poor urban community, the action will develop new knowledge of the context and needs of residents in such communities as well as a greater understanding of the linkages between poverty and health.
This model field site will generate high quality data that government and non-governmental agencies can use to inform both local community action and broader government policies. The data will facilitate greater understanding of issues critical for development such as slum-upgrading strategies (e.g.those devised by HABITAT), national health policy, as well as intervention planning and operations. For instance, it will provide a platform for identifying needs of the community and baseline data for evaluation of interventions in the area. The final beneficiaries will be the urban poor in Sodom and Gomorrah/Ga an area with at least 20,000 people (2000 Ghana Census of Population) located in the heart of Accra, Ghana.
To a large extent the development focus on the poorest members of society has concentrated on the rural poor, at the expense of their urban counterparts who, the evidence increasingly shows, are as disadvantaged, if not more so.
The benefits of this action will be felt in a short time frame, with the first cohort of graduates entering into the job market after only a short time. In Year Two of the action these graduates will be on the labour market and the benefits will be distributed into the governmental and NGO sectors. These benefits will be ongoing over a long time period while these graduates are in the labour force, and hopefully will trickle down to later cohorts. Academics will be involved throughout the action and will be able to embed the knowledge garnered into longer term projects and curricula.
The urban poor will feel the benefits of the action only after a number of years, after the data from the survey has been analyzed, distributed and interventions developed. However, they will feel the benefits over a number of years. A final and important aspect of the actions expected results will be the improved co-operation between the partners as well as an improved capacity to execute grant-aided projects.
Porject Title: Population Training and Research Capacity for Development (PopTRCD)
Coordinator: University of Southampton
Photo source: PopTRCD project