Academic cooperation between South Africa and Germany abound! Exciting projects and programmes are funded in South Africa with German funding. These include graduate schools between universities in South Africa and Germany, German-African Centres of Excellence in South Africa and many more.
Policy Framework for Internationalisation of Higher Education in South Africa
The Department for Higher Education and Training (DHET) has recently published its Policy Framework for Internationalisation of Higher Education in South Africa. We celebrate this vital step forward for internationalisation strategies at South African higher education institutions and look forward to supporting and promoting existing and new cooperations between higher education institutions in Germany and South Africa. The Policy Framework may be viewed here:
Global challenges can only be mastered through cooperation. This belief is the basis of the DAAD’s programme to promote the establishment of eight Global Centres dedicated to climate & the environment, as well as health & pandemic prevention, using funding from the Federal Foreign Office. International and inter-disciplinary networking among the Centres, collaboration with stake holders from the areas of politics, business and the civil society, and the transfer of research findings into practical applications are the key focus areas of the programme.
The Transnational Centre for Just Transitions in Energy, Climate & Sustainability (TRAJECTS) works on climate change mitigation in the two focus areas of fossil-fuel phase-out and changes in land management and ecosystem protection.
The university cooperation between the Technical University Berlin, the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, the University of Cape Town, the Universidad del Magdalena and the Berlin University Alliance aims to offer locally embedded, yet globally aware perspectives on the urgent transitions necessary to protect the Climate and Environment in the field of fossil fuel and land management. For this, demand- and policy-oriented research and teaching on the two principal processes of socio-technical transitions with a deeply inter- and transdisciplinary approach will be applied. With its main hub in Colombia, two Hubs in South Africa and Germany and global network of over 40 institutions in civil society, academia, think-tanks, public administration and business it aims to become a leading hub of sustainability teaching, research and action.
- Development of joint study modules on just transitions in energy, climate & sustainability and renewal of existing programmes
- Master- and PhD-scholarship programmes, thesis excellency award and internships
- Joint virtual lectures series and a virtual lab
- Forums for dialogue with non-university actors
- Set-up of a transdisciplinary network with university, non-university research institutions and organizations from civil society, politics and business
The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) is Africa’s first network of centres of excellence in mathematical sciences. It enables the continent’s youth to shape the continent’s future through Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education- training Africa’s next generation of leaders. AIMS South Africa is one of the centres of excellence for training, research and public engagement in Cape Town, South Africa. AIMS South Africa was established in 2003 as a partnership project of the following 6 universities: Cambridge, Cape Town, Oxford, Paris Sud XI, Stellenbosch, and Western Cape.
AIMS is a call to action to:
- Empower Africa’s youth to shape its future
- Solve global challenges
- Drive economic self-sufficiency
The DAAD funds In-Region PhD scholarships at AIMS South Africa. The In-Country/In-Region Programme Sub-Saharan Africa aims at fostering strong, internationally oriented higher education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa with the capacity to contribute to sustainable development. To this end, scholarships are granted for development-related Master or doctoral studies for individuals who plan to pursue a career in teaching and / or research at a higher education institution in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The DAAD also funds two research chairs at AIMS South Africa: Dr Bubacarr Bah and Dr Marc Sedjro. Dr Marc Sedjro’s German Research Chair with specialization in Partial Differential Equations and Calculus of Variations, in collaboration with the Communication and Information Theory Chair at TU Berlin, also offers three PhD and two postdoctoral positions at AIMS South Africa research centre in Cape Town. These positions are made available and funded by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) to promote international academic exchange as well as educational co-operation with developing countries.
In 2021, two new research chairs at AIMS Rwanda have received funding. More on the research chairs here:
The DAAD funds In-Region MA/PhD scholarships at the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics. The In-Country/In-Region Programme Sub-Saharan Africa aims at fostering strong, internationally oriented higher education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa with the capacity to contribute to sustainable development. To this end, scholarships are granted for development-related Master or doctoral studies for individuals who plan to pursue a career in teaching and / or research at a higher education institution in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Scholarship holders in the In-Country/In-Region Scholarship Programme are eligible to apply for short-term research grants to Germany during their funding period as well as attend interdisciplinary summer schools in Germany. Read more about the summer schools here.
The South African-German Centre for Development Research is one of the ten African-German Centres of Excellence funded by the DAAD. By establishing Centres of Excellence at leading African universities, the DAAD aims to create modern educational capacities of supraregional influence. The improvements in the educational quality and the greater research capacity available at these world-class hubs will enable the next generation of leaders to acquire training in line with international standards.
Three institutes are cooperating in research and teaching activities within the field of development research under the roof the SA-GER CDR: the Institute for Social Development (ISD) and the School of Government (SoG) at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, and the Institute of Development Research and Development Policy (IEE) at the Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany.
The South African-German Centre for Development Research at the University of the Western Cape trains the next generation of executive elites in Master and PhD degree programmes related to Development Studies. Students of the Centre are given the preparation needed to meet the specific economic, social and political challenges which will arise in the course of the region’s development processes. For further information on these programmes please refer to the Centre’s website as well as to the websites of the three institutes involved:
In March 2020 the global Corona virus influenced teaching at the Centre. Read more about online teaching at the Centre here:
East and South African-German Centre for Educational Research, Methodologies and Management (CERM-ESA)
The East and South African-German Centre for Educational Research, Methodologies and Management is one of the ten African-German Centres of Excellence funded by the DAAD. By establishing Centres of Excellence at leading African universities, the DAAD aims to create modern educational capacities of supraregional influence. The improvements in the educational quality and the greater research capacity available at these world-class hubs will enable the next generation of leaders to acquire training in line with international standards.
The Moi-University, Eldoret and Nairobi, the Nelson Mandela University and the University of Oldenburg are project partners at CERM-ESA, with the Uganda Management Institute and the University of Dar es Salaam serving as networking partners.
In view of the need for excellence in educational research, training and management in Sub-Saharan Africa related to the processes of empowerment and advancement of educationists and educational institutions, CERM-ESA focuses on:
- Research: Advancing and expanding excellent innovative educational research on methodologies, instruction techniques and management strategies for African
- Teaching: CERM-ESA academic programme which includes a Master’s programme in educational research, annual Research Schools and mentored online modules, as well as an exchange programme for lecturers and students;
- Capacity Building: The CERM-ESA capacity building programme for academic and administrative university staff is open to all partners of the DAAD-funded Centres of African Excellence;
- Professional Teacher Development: Supporting teachers and principals to develop professionally and advance their competencies in relevant areas of educational practice, curriculum implementation and school management in their local contexts.
Read more about the Centre’s academic programmes here:
In March 2020, the Centre played a pivotal role in a Kick-Off Meeting of the Digital Initiative for African Centres of Excellence (DIGI-FACE) project. Read more about the meeting and project here:
In December 2018, the DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg and CERM-ESA collaborated on a Science Talk at the 2018 Science Forum South Africa. Read more about the Science Talk here:
The African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) is Africa’s leading scholarly institution for research and teaching on human mobility. Established in 1993, ACMS is an independent, interdisciplinary and internationally engaged institution focusing on the relationships among human movement politics, poverty, and social transformation. While oriented towards southern Africa, the Centre conducts collaborative scholarly and policy-oriented work across sub-Saharan Africa, and has partnerships in Asia, Europe and the Americas. It offers Africa’s only post-graduate degrees in migration and displacement studies and provides training to students and professionals on a number of topics including the sociology of migration, mobility and health, human rights, and research methods.
While maintaining its scholarly independence, the Centre regularly partners with organisations in government and civil society in identifying data needs, conducting research and shaping policy. Centre staff are also regularly called on to provide expert advice and commentary to international organisations, governments, and the media.
As part of Wits University’s School of Social Sciences, the ACMS offers Masters and Doctoral degrees in migration and displacement studies. Select students are encouraged to critically engage with social theory and empirical challenges by conducting independent research. Graduates find success in government, international agencies, civil society organisations and the academy.
ACMS research on international and domestic migration critically analyses how human mobility reshapes institutions, attitudes, economies and policies. Through its work, the centre influences global and regional academic research agendas, policy deliberations and civil society mobilisation. To these ends, the ACMS regularly hosts high profile seminars and public events.
The DAAD funds In-Region MA/PhD scholarships at ACMS. The In-Country/In-Region Programme Sub-Saharan Africa aims at fostering strong, internationally oriented higher education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa with the capacity to contribute to sustainable development. To this end, scholarships are granted for development-related Master or doctoral studies for individuals who plan to pursue a career in teaching and / or research at a higher education institution in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Scholarship holders in the In-Country/In-Region Scholarship Programme are eligible to apply for short-term research grants to Germany during their funding period as well as attend interdisciplinary summer schools in Germany. Read more about the summer schools here.
When a devastating fire started in Cape Town on 18 April 2021, attacking parts of the University of Cape Town (UCT) and burning down the Jagger Library – one of the most important libraries for the African continent, housing published and unpublished materials known for their research, cultural value and heritage at the university – Tina Löhr decided to fly to Cape Town through her own initiative and at her own expense only a few days after the fire broke out. Her initiative has now resulted in a larger project that actively supports the restoration work of the Special Collections Department of the UCT libraries.
Tina Löhr is originally from Solingen, but moved to Cologne in 1998, where she studied paper conservation until 2003. Before that, she did an apprenticeship as a bookbinder and an internship in paper conservation, which is a requirement for the field of study. After completing her diploma, she stayed in Cologne and still works there independently and self employed. She has always been fascinated by the material of paper and books in general, therefore her choice of studies.
Paper restoration is about preserving cultural assets in the form of books, paper, graphics, i.e. everything that has paper as a carrier material, and bringing it into a form in which it will survive the next decades or centuries without further damage. Accordingly, the aim is not to restore a work to its original state, which Löhr says is a widespread misconception. Rather, the aim is to stop the decay caused by low quality materials or the climate in which they are kept.
She is currently in Cape Town for a restoration project funded by the German Foreign Office, assisting with the restoration of damaged works in the Jagger Library, developing long-term preventive concepts and working on training and workshops for colleagues on site. In an interview, she talks about her work in Cape Town and shows how work is currently being done to restore the damaged objects.
Interview: Conducted by Eva Thamm, DAAD Lecturer at UCT
Ms Löhr, your specialisation in this area is very helpful for the disaster that hit the Jagger Library at UCT last April. Please tell us how you heard about the fire and what happened next.
I heard about the fire in Cape Town from a Facebook travel group and friends. Because of my internship that I did in 2000 in a museum in Durban, and several holidays in the country, I felt very connected to South Africa. I then contacted Dr. Dale Peters, with whom I did the internship back then, and asked her about the situation at UCT in Cape Town. I wanted to know if I could possibly help in any way. She then added me to a WhatsApp group where there were several conservators and professionals from all over the world discussing whether or how to support. As I was in the middle of the German lockdown at the time, I then quickly decided to fly to Cape Town. On Friday, just six day after the fire started, I took a flight and was already on site on Saturday.
What exactly happened when you got to UCT, and what did your work look like?
I made it my task to determine certain decision-making levels and developed a triage. This involved three decision-making questions: Can certain objects be air-dried? Do objects need to be frozen? Or can objects go straight back into archiving if they are not damaged? This triage was important to ensure that things could be sorted quickly. A lot of works were frozen because of the mold. In the process, I often had to answer questions about what happens in the freezer and after defrosting it again later. In this context I had to make important decisions for the restoration of the works. At UCT, I then met Mary Minicka, who works at the Western National Archives in Cape Town. She is apparently the only paper conservator on site who works according to European standards. There was also support from two students from the University of Pretoria and their lecturer Isabelle McGinn.
How exactly did this short stay lead to the current project, which is why you are here now? And how did you help to conceptualise the project?
I was still in contact with the university, especially with Ujala Satgoor, the director of the library. At some point I got the message that she was trying to set up a project in which I was supposed to provide support back on site. After the project application to the German Foreign Office was made, everything went very quickly and now I have been here since the beginning of January.
Basically, setting up certain workshops was the idea when I came back. Also, the training of staff members was part of the idea, so they could continue working on the restorations independently afterwards. The delayed delivery, the lack of space to store the objects and the whole administrative act for this workshop facility are now unfortunately delaying this process. Therefore, although I have not yet set up the workshop, I have at least already worked on objects that were stored in containers in the meantime. The condition of the large formats stored there in the form of maps and architectural plans was unclear before the defrosting, as isolated power cuts increased the risk of mold developing. So, I sorted these objects into different levels, processed some of them and thus prepared them for restoration, so to speak, which can then be done by guided restorers when I am no longer here.
Do you have a team to work with at the moment?
Right now, I have two interns (Jabulile Ntuli and Daniéle Knoetze) who were also with me last year shortly after the fire. They will stay for two weeks. There are also two staff members from UCT who are supposed to assist with conservation, but so far, they have mainly been busy moving the objects from the university grounds into the temporary workshop. There is clearly a clear lack of space. I have therefore worked intensively on preparing and creating concepts and, together with Mary Minicka, have developed a guideline and performance specification for conservation that should help other conservators in the country. There is obviously a lack of professional background in paper conservation, so it is important to set certain standards in the treatment of paper objects. I am also working on creating workflows that describe how archive staff should handle archival materials. Basic treatment criteria and instructions for action thus make it easier to deal with damaged things.
How do you assess the current progress of the restorations? Is there a time trend for the final completion of the restoration work?
It always depends on what you mean by restoration or recovery. Either you are dealing with usable objects that don’t need to be restored, or you are restoring objects so that they no longer show any damage at all. To restore them on this level is of course the perfect case, but it will be almost impossible. At the moment there are still about 1,000 boxes in the freezer containers, and also large formats, the number of which cannot be quantified. In total, up to 13,000 boxes were taken out of the cellars of the library. In addition, maps, posters and architectural drawings were secured from 90 cabinets. Of these, I have thawed and processed about 1500 plans and maps in the last five weeks. Now about 500 are still waiting to be restored, but that’s definitely already a lot what has been done so far. Depending on the standard, and how you can continue to do the restoration, this process could take up to 10 years.
What would have to be done continuing from here for the successful restoration of the contents of the Jagger Library, what would you recommend?
First of all, the space, i.e. the working space, needs to be set up in order to be able to restore the objects properly. All the objects that are now waiting to be processed need space. And when they are restored, you also need storage space again. At the moment the space is not there, but that would now be an actual priority. You also need a specialist, a paper conservator with trainees or assistants. The most important thing for the next weeks is to clean the things that I have now defrosted. The things that are still in the freezer containers also need to be defrosted, cleaned and restored because the users also want to use these things again. This is actually a big pressure that has come up because there are already many requests for the files and documents that have been damaged.
You talked about the lack of space. Maybe you can briefly describe what the working environment looks like right now and what needs to be done for a suitable working space.
We currently have a mixed use of the rooms that the university has rented. These rooms are supposed to be the restoration workshop, but right now they are mostly storage areas for the archive materials that have been moved out of the university and of course need to be stored somewhere. And there are no shelves or compactus facilities yet where the stuff can be stored. And if this room is to be used as a workshop, it has to be empty, the carpet has to come out because carpet is difficult to clean. For restoration, you need surfaces that are easy to clean, because hygiene is important. I have already worked out the concept for the workshop, and thought through the materials and equipment as well. You don’t need much, but you do need a bit of space, you need working tables, work surfaces and equipment.
If you compare the scale of this disaster with the collapse of the City Archive in Cologne, how would you rate this in comparison?
In terms of capacity or quantity, the City Archive in Cologne had much more archival material stored. And above all, the things there were not just wet, but rather silted up, because they were in the groundwater. No fire was extinguished there, but the building collapsed and then the works were damaged by debris, mud from the groundwater or stones. Here in Cape Town, it’s basically “only” the moisture from the extinguishing water, but the way it’s dealt with is identical, i.e. freezing to stop mold growth and then reworking the things afterwards. The restoration process is identical.
What would need to be done in terms of prevention in relation to any security arrangements at the Jagger Library to avoid future disasters?
An archive or library usually has its own emergency plans. The point of these emergency plans is to consider in advance where the nearest cold storage is or who the contact person at the fire brigade is who knows that valuable objects are stored in the burning building. This creates awareness and prevents, for example, not using a powder extinguisher, but using other extinguishing agents to put out the fire. We are also creating such an emergency plan as part of the project. This, along with other measures such as the correct storage or packaging of objects, will be a big topic in the planned workshops that are to take place in March or April for staff members of relating institutions. For this, we are also developing video elements that can be used for later training and to sensitise inexperienced archives or libraries in the country.
Are you happy with the way things have gone so far? And would you like to continue the project and remain involved after this time?
Yes, I am happy and would like to continue to be involved in this project. I notice that even small things that I do or tell my colleagues are met with gratitude. I would have liked to have trained someone on site during this time, and I would have liked to hand over what I am doing here, but it will now lie fallow for a bit until the newly advertised position for restoration is filled. In any case, I would like to continue to accompany the project and be available to answer any questions. That’s why I’ll be happy to come back again if necessary. That is important to me, because I have the feeling that this is as well my project now.
What would you like to see happen in the future? For the last week and the general future of the project.
That is difficult. Because of course you have ideas in advance about how everything should go, and at the beginning I wished for much more. But now, under the given circumstances, it couldn’t be better. What I would like to see, however, is more focus on restoration and conservation. Conservators and archivists usually have different wishes. But I have often said that now is a new starting point of the library, also with the help of the money that was acquired through the disaster and with the help of the public’s attention. Everything can be done better, especially in terms of storage and the choice of materials. However, due to time pressure or unavailability in South Africa, substandard materials continue to be ordered in isolated cases, and that sometimes is quite sad for me. We also need to develop more sensitivity for materials in general, so that we can say: If the box costs R100, but the better one costs R150, then I will invest in the better box because the objects can then be stored properly in it for 20 years longer. That is a fundamental wish that one always has in my profession. And I also wish that I will remain a part of this restoration project, and that everyone here will feel free to contact me when I am gone. I want to continue to be available for everyone and support however I can.
For more information,Papierrestaurierung Köln – Diplom-Restauratorin Tina Löhr (diplom-restaurierung.de)
The Wits-TUB Urban Lab, launched in the context of a cooperation between the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and the Technical University of Berlin, has been training students and doctoral candidates in development approaches towards the sustainability of large urban areas since its inception in 2016.
The bilateral graduate school, based at the University of the Witwatersrand, is funded by the DAAD programme, Bilateral SDG Graduate Schools, in which 6 other graduate schools worldwide are also funded. The programme, launched in 2016 in response to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda in which 17 Sustainable Development Goals are stipulated and funded by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, seeks to establish and expand key structures at universities in developing countries with the goal of transforming these universities into driving forces for sustainable development, both locally and globally.
A total of 41 Master and 6 PhD scholarships have been awarded to South Africans and other African Nationals for study and research at the Wits-TUB Urban Lab since the inception of the programme. A further component of the project are the annual summer schools, hosted in Berlin in 2017 and in Johannesburg in 2018, that promote the international collaboration of African and European students on projects surrounding socioeconomic and structural transformation issues in the urban field over the course of one week. This allows the students to catch a glimpse of what life is like in the partner university’s city and to acknowledge that, in spite of different contexts, the problems in urban areas are similar.
Following several curriculum workshops in close collaboration with the Habitat Unit at TU Berlin, the Wits-TUB Urban Lab has implemented curriculum reform at the University of the Witwatersrand. This has resulted in the restructuring of its interdisciplinary Master degrees into various fields under a Master of Urban Studies, and conceptualisation of a new field, namely the Master of Urban Studies in Urban Management, and the further enhancement of the PhD programme. The School of Architecture and Planning, under which the Wits-TUB Urban Lab falls, further benefits from staff exchanges from other African countries and the Habitat Unit at TU Berlin, Germany thanks to the cooperation funded by the DAAD. The partnership also makes field trips to other African countries and Germany possible for the PhD scholarship holders, further promoting transnational and transdisciplinary approaches and solutions for problems facing urban areas today.
The Wits-TUB Urban Lab is actively establishing partnerships with other organisations in urban and sustainability fields and procuring internships and placements at various organisations all over Africa for its students. In 2019, the graduate school looks forward to the launch of their new Master degree, the upcoming summer school at TU Berlin and the application process for the 2020 scholarships. The DAAD Information Centre Johannesburg is committed to assisting the Wits-TUB Urban Lab with the marketing of its scholarships and degrees. Be sure to follow our social media and keep a close eye on our website for more on this exciting project between Europe and Africa.
The interdisciplinary Graduate School ‘Performing Sustainability’ is a collaborative training network for graduate students by the University of Hildesheim (Germany), the University of Maiduguri (Nigeria) and the University of Cape Coast (Ghana).
The program focuses on cutting-edge research that brings together performance, arts, and cultural methods to address sustainable development as stated by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A specific focus lies on issues of peace and conflict resolution.
The DAAD Bilateral SDG Graduate Schools aim to provide the infrastructure for fostering cooperative efforts among German higher education institutions and their counterparts in Latin America, Africa and Asia. They resonate with the UN Agenda 2030 call upon the world community to build global partnerships in order to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are formulated as joint objectives for the world community and cover a broad range of themes and social issues. Their ultimate goal is the generation of well-being and peaceful and inclusive societies while at the same time preserving our planet.
Between the years 2016 and 2020, the research training group ‘Performing Sustainability, Cultures and Development in West Africa’ has set itself the goal of developing international research approaches in the field of cultural studies on the SDGS with a focus on peace and conflict studies for doctoral and master students in West-Africa.
Within the first three years, twelve PhD and six Master students will be qualified through a structured PhD program. Throughout their academic careers, all students will continually mediate and share the knowledge they have gained. Following the University of Hildesheim’s emphasis on the theory-practice interaction, program participants are invited to begin working on projects in the educational, socio-cultural, or cultural policy fields to help their society achieve SDG 16.
Scholarship holders hailing from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Cameroon, Niger, and Germany are conducting research on the role of culture and arts in conflict resolution, peace processes, and sustainable development in West Africa, such as the role of theater and film in refugee communities, the effects of migration and displacement on tangible and intangible cultural heritage, cultural policy, and cultural management.
The SDG-GS has produced 11 Ph.D. and 12 Masters scholars from Ghana and Nigeria since its inception in 2016. The current SDG-GS cohort includes six Ph.D. students at the University of Cape Coast, as well as six Ph.D. and six MA students at the University of Maiduguri.
In the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the research training group ‘Performing Sustainability, Cultures, and Development in West Africa’ has launched the second phase of their project, with the aim of increasing local visibility and impact through local projects, internationalizing universities and curricula through online co-teaching methodology and the expansion of PhD double degrees. Other goals include actively transferring Graduate School activities into local university structures to ensure sustainability after DAAD funding and bridging the gap between academia and practice through collaboration with key NGO partners who are implementing the SDGS on the ground. These additional objectives strongly encourage working toward academic sustainability, particularly in the areas of research and capacity building.
International Study and Training Partnerships (ISAP): Justus Liebig University Giessen and North-West University
International Study and Training Partnerships (ISAP) are institutional cooperative structures between German and international universities, in which groups of highly qualified German and international students can complete a fully recognized part of their degree programme at a partner university.
JLU’s sociology department has been focusing on the southern African region in both teaching and research for about 30 years. Research has been conducted on social consequences of HIV in the region, problems of food security, and climate change impact.
Student excursions to Namibia and Botswana, which have been directed for many years, has been one of the most important activities to address these issues. All these activities were strongly based on the personal commitment of the involved colleagues and students. To this background, the recent history of a more focused institutional cooperation not only marks a conceptional turning point in the department’s strategy, but is only due to the contingencies of travelling and its encounters generated by chance.
When a car full of Giessen sociologists drove past the North-West University Potchefstroom campus in 2012, it quickly became clear that the interfaces in research interests, student exchange and the wish for a long-term collaboration were rather strong.
In 2013, a workshop at NWU with colleagues from both universities demonstrated the enormous potential for this collaboration, resulting in a successful application to the DAAD’s ISAP program.
Since 2014, NWU and JLU have cultivated and constantly expanded the ISAP exchange. After starting with only one NWU campus and two students per university, all three campuses are now active, with four students being sent abroad each year.
Meanwhile, two JLU professors have been awarded as extraordinary professors at NWU (Prof. J. Ahrens, 2018; Prof. A. Langenohl, 2021), various research initiatives and collaborative publications have begun from here, both partners are expanding PhD cotutelle supervision, and NWU has served as an important platform for building futher cooperations in the region, such as the University of Botswana (UB) or the University of Fort Hare (UFH).
Project Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Jörn Ahrens
The most recent development in the International Study and Training Partnerships (ISAP) cooperation history between Justus Liebig Universität Giessen (JLU), North West University (NWU) and University of Botswana (UB) is the successful grant approval for a DAAD-funded SDG Partnership – „Planetary Utilization of Sustainability Strategies” (PLUS).
Here, JLU will serve as coordinator of a network with 8 partners in southern Africa (NWU; UB; University of Fort Hare (UFH), Universidade Pedagógica Maputo, Mozambique; Namibia University of Science & Technology) and Latin America. Over the course of 4 years we will implement a network for discourse and cooperation as both focus regions are facing substantial social and ecological transformation which will increase already existing social inequality and which will also propel conflicts about resources and distribution. The network will reflect on such contemporary conflict lines, and therefore predominantly refer to approaches that will explicitly respond to the critique of hegemonic epistemology and to alternative concepts for intervention. As such, southern Africa and Latin America will not just serve as paradigmatic topographies for the current impact of global challenges, but as corrective for dominant orders of knowledge and problem definitions.
Project Coordinator: Prof. Dr. Jörn Ahrens
The programme “Partnerships for sustainable solutions with Sub-Saharan Africa” supports cooperative partnerships between African partners and German universities, non-university research institutes and companies.
The results of the supported projects should lead to demonstrable innovative solutions to problems. By forging close links with teaching, it will be possible to directly incorporate these solutions into graduate training and thus into capacity building. This will establish significant new perspectives at the African partner universities.
Namibia is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the world. The population is distributed over a very small number of urban centres, which are only connected to each other by asphalted roads. Large parts of the country, especially the tourist attractions and farms that are important for the national economy are only accessible via partially paved roads.
Gravel roads degenerate much faster than paved roads due to driving, traffic and weather conditions. This means that vehicles are exposed to greater wear and tear, increasing the risk of accidents. Considering how large the road network is, roadside inspections aren’t feasible, thus new technological possibilities must be developed to solve this problem.
With the help of parameter time series collected over the entire project period, forecasting models will be developed, which will enable a more efficient use of resources for the maintenance of the infrastructure.
The long-term goal of this project is to improve the quality of education both within the framework of the project and through the implementation of new courses in the curricula of the two partner universities. This can be done through the cooperation with local companies and authorities, as well as the creation of interdisciplinary competence networks. As a result, Namibia will be in a position to further develop as a technology and innovation in the sub-Saharan region.
The TALC (Tool for Analyzing Language and Communication) project is a joint collaboration between the Leibniz Universität Hannover and the University of Pretoria, with researchers from the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University contributing as well.
The TALC project develops a hard- and software tool which enables recording as well as (semi)automatized transcription and linguistic analysis of natural speech samples. Researching speech and language development is transformed digitally on the interface of linguistics, computer linguistics, speech and language pathology / pedagogy and computer science:
- Big data access is possible by making the process of recording, transcription and analysis more applicable
- Knowledge drawn from data is based on longer sequences of natural communication
- Transferring results into intervention is facilitated by analyzing individual environments for speech and language acquisition
- TALC data can provide an alternative in evaluating change in everyday communication (as demanded by the ICF)
From 11 – 12 February 2020 researchers from both Germany and South Africa held a workshop at Campus Future Africa at the University of Pretoria that aimed to compare views of various disciplines in the project, such as Speech and Language Therapy, (Computer)linguistics, Engineering and Computer Science, on the topic of “transcription and analysis of (child) language data.” Interdisciplinary interfaces were identified and connected the German and South African pilot study.
The project is now expanding its funding through the DAAD programme, PAGEL – Partnerships for the Health Sector in Developing Countries, that supports high-quality training and continuing education opportunities in the medical field. In addition, development-related professional networks between students, alumni, and experts in the health sector are to be established. Sustainable development structures are expected to also develop between the participating universities.
Building a (very) long-term bilateral collaboration, by Du Toit Strauss (NWU), Frederic Effenberger (GFZ) and Nina Dresing (CAU)
Last year we were delighted to be informed that our proposal “Joint South Africa-Germany space weather studies during solar cycle 25 and beyond”, submitted under the Alexander von Humboldt group linkage programme, was successfully funded. This bilateral and multi-institutional proposal combines expertise from the North-West University (NWU) and the Space Science Division of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA; represented on the proposal by Rendani Nndanganeni) in South Africa, and the GeoForschungsZentrum (GFZ) in Potsdam and Christian-Albrechts Universität (CAU) zu Kiel in Germany. In addition, all four team leaders are also still considered early career scientists. The main research emphasis is on investigating the nature of the local region of space that can influence our everyday life, and how this relates to variability of the Sun. Examples of such events are large solar storms knocking out satellite transmissions, or astronauts experiencing abnormally high levels of cosmic radiation during manned spacecraft missions. In general terms this is referred to as space weather and one day, perhaps not in the too distant future, we will have daily space weather reports in the media, similar to what we have now for terrestrial weather.
These research collaborations with strong international ties do not happen overnight and we are by no means an exception. We are the second generation of bilateral scientists, growing up (in terms of our science careers) within a successful and long-term South Africa – Germany bilateral project; all four of us were doctoral students during a phase of three, three-year bilateral projects between the NWU, CAU, and the Ruhr Universität in Bochum (RUB) funded through the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa and the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) in Germany. Students became friends, friends became colleagues, and colleagues become research associates in their own rights. Such close research partnerships, built on mutual trust and respect, cannot be developed overnight, and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a project, but also to lead the next phase in its evolution.
A big part of any bilateral program is travel and especially so for doctoral students. During a recent visit to Germany in early 2019, several South African doctoral students had the opportunity to visit Germany. Some share their experience in this newsletter. For some, it was their second visit, and for others their first trip outside of South Africa. However, all of the students returned with additional motivation to pursue their studies, having been exposed to new ideas and fresh perspectives. For most students, such a visit also triggers a mental change in thinking of their research future, with many wanting to return for a longer stay in Germany, and several already taking up German language classes in preparation thereof.
Hopefully these students will one day be the third generation of researchers in this long-term, and very successful, South Africa-Germany collaboration.
Written by Du Toit Strauss
The collaborative and research education hub “HEdIS” that seeks to bring together the practical and research orientated aspects of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) for supporting South Africa’s sustainability efforts, was launched at Nelson Mandela University (NMU). The Hub for Education on ICT for Sustainability is a collaborative project of Nelson Mandela University, in Port Elizabeth, the University of Cape Town and Carl von Ossietzky University, in Oldenburg, that will run through the South African universities’ computing science departments over four years.
The project is based on a well-established and long-standing partnership between the two South African universities involving numerous faculties and schools, tapping into their expertise as comprehensive universities with strong links to the entire Sub-Saharan region. Carl von Ossietzky University is an internationally recognized university from the Global North with a long-standing track record in sustainability research, teaching and community engagement.
At NMU, the Hub will be established and run at the Department of Computing Sciences, getting its full academic and infrastructural support. The HEdIS, primarily funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), will explore six major sustainability topics for research-oriented as well as practice-related teaching that have specific regard to the South African context. These include Water Management, Energy Efficiency, Waste Management, Sustainable Mobility, Education on Sustainability and Sustainability Entrepreneurship.
Within the project runtime, teaching modules for the above-mentioned themes will be developed and each topic supplied with courses and course related offers for the students. In addition to the ultimate extension of existing study programmes at NMU and UCT for students, the project will address vocational training activities for company participants. A number of activities are lined up and will take place over the project’s four-year timeframe, including workshops, summer schools and overall project management. German and South African researchers, as well as key business partners, will engage in planned activities.
ICT students and other participants elected by networked industry partners will be chosen to attend the summer schools, getting an opportunity to not only improve their competencies in the specific topic, but be afforded exposure to a global network of educators, researchers, innovators, industry experts and academics.
The project activities are structured into module development cycles (MODECs). Each MODEC has a duration of one year and aims to develop two teaching modules. With each iteration, two new teaching modules will be developed. Within the project duration, four MODECs will be performed, which totals the development of up to eight teaching modules.
In the steering group meetings, the module topics will be planned and decided within the specified six themes of ICT for sustainability. In the frame of the workshops, curricula for previously identified existing modules will be developed. ICT modules developed in the DASIK project will be integrated into the module development to ensure high practical relevance. For the same reason, industry partners will be involved in the module design. Innovative and heterogeneous teaching and learning methods will be implemented into the module design.
Once the modules have been designed and developed, summer schools for these modules will be conducted. In the scope of the summer schools, students from NMU and UCT will be further qualified in the field of ICT for sustainability. Industry experts and lecturers from partner institutions will take part in the summer schools as experts. Furthermore, industry partners have the opportunity to participate within vocational training activities.
SPACES II (Science Partnerships for the Adaption to Complex Earth System Processes in the Region of Southern Africa)
In the framework of the programme SPACES II, (Science Partnerships for the Adaption to Complex Earth System Processes in the Region of Southern Africa) of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF), researchers from Germany, South Africa, Namibia and Angola conduct scientific collaboration projects to investigate climate processes, the global climate change, and their consequences in the region of Southern Africa. Sustainability is one focus of this research. Sustainable research requires early support for young experts in research and education at universities and research institutes, including industry-related ones, in Germany and the participating African countries South Africa, Namibia, and Angola. Good networking, close coordination and long-term cooperation between the scientists of these nations are of equal importance.
The accompanying DAAD scholarship programme Capacity Building/Development (CaBuDe) aims at developing the required capacities. The programme will enable scholarship holders from Southern Africa to do research, to network and to be (further) educated in Germany, in order to become experts for the sustainable scientific-technical cooperation between their home countries and Germany. The same applies to the short-term research scholarship holders from Germany under this programme.
The South African Land Degradation Monitor (SALDi) project is one example of a SPACES II project currently being conducted in Southern Africa. In this project, geographers at Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany) are coordinating a new joint research project that is studying changes in landscapes and soil conditions of South Africa. Other partners in the project include the German Universities of Augsburg and Tübingen, the German Aerospace Center and, in South Africa, the Agricultural Research Council, South African National Parks, the universities of Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Bloemfontein, as well as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
Prof Dr Jussi Baade at the Friedrich Schiller Univeristy Jena serves as project coordinator. Read more about this exciting SPACES II project here.
The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAF) has also written a small article on the SALDi project in their Quest Magazine, Issue 15.2. The magazine can be downloaded here.