The SANREM CRSP received an Associate Award in 2008 from USAID's Sudan Mission to evaluate higher education needs in agriculture and natural resource management in the southern Sudan. Because the region's higher education system collapsed during more than 50 years of civil war, few well-trained Sudanese are available to deal with agriculture and natural resource issues. SANREM's goal is to assess education and human resource needs in the southern Sudan and to develop higher education curricula to meet these needs.
The Associate Award was led by Michael Bertelsen, SANREM's economic assessment impact coordinator and associate director of Virginia Tech's Office of International Research, Education, and Development. Co-PIs are SANREM Program Director Theo Dillaha and Father Michael Schultheis, acting vice chancellor for the Catholic University of the Sudan (CUofS). Prof. Aggrey Abate, the Dean of the College of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies and currently the Vice Chancellor The program developed suggested higher education curricula to improve agricultural production and promote food security in the Southern Sudan.
The SANREM CRSP sponsored two international symposia in Juba as part of the associate award. The first symposium, Nov. 17-19, 2008, reviewed the current status of higher education in agriculture and environmental sciences in the southern Sudan and agricultural development needs to refine the project goals and objectives. The second symposium, March 11-12, 2009, reviewed project progress and sought feedback for Sudanese ministry, education, development agency, and NGO personnel on the preliminary findings of the Higher Education in Agriculture Needs Assessment survey.
The Agricultural Higher Education in Southern Sudan Final Report was issued in January 2010. The report describes the “needs assessment for higher education in agriculture and natural resource management” undertaken with Southern Sudan and U.S. partners. Through the two workshops with local, regional and international participants and a “key informant” survey of stakeholders in three states, short and long-term higher education needs were assessed. Among the greatest needs identified were the following:
- Huge deficiency in numbers of current and projected university-trained agriculturalists
- Universally recognized urgent need for practical, field-based training for degree candidates at all levels
- Urgent need for shorter-term certificate and diploma programs
- Shorter-term development needs require many more bachelors degree graduates with broad-based, general agricultural training
- Facilities and faculty training needs are acute and general
- Higher education to increase regional food security is priority number one.
In response to these needs, this report outlines curricula changes and other recommendations judged to be required for an optimal response to the challenges of post-conflict Southern Sudan. Curricula changes are made based on the needs assessment and a cross-sectional analysis of the core curricula nine other regional and international universities. Specific curricular adjustments and recommendations for both the Catholic University of Sudan and the University of Juba are made subject to the assumption that required resources will become available.
All recommendations and curricula modifications are subject to a continuing review by our Southern Sudan partners and other stakeholders and should be considered provisional. A complementary effort to this needs assessment is currently being undertaken as a result of an HED planning grant to Virginia Tech under the Africa – U.S. Partnership for Higher Education.
Principal recommendations include the following:
- Short-term agricultural tertiary education efforts should focus on the training of agricultural generalists who could function as extensionists to assist smallholders and medium sized farmers and herders to improve their productivity and general food security in the region. Southern Sudan universities should take the lead in implementing these tertiary education programs.
Catholic University of the Sudan recommendations:
- The propedeutic (introductory) year represents an innovative response to student needs, especially since CUofS wishes to cater to students most disadvantaged in their previous education by the war. Nevertheless, the lack of practical agricultural training during this year is an important missed opportunity. Significant numbers of students will likely not be able to continue into the second year and beyond for various reasons. If targeted and significant practical agriculture experiences could be offered during this year and a credential (certificate) issued in recognition thereof, such students would be better qualified and empowered to enter into the labor force and provide valuable skills sets to the agricultural sector. Relevant training field-based modules could be adopted from the Crop Training Center in Yei and other regional training centers.
- The proposed agricultural field experiences need to be fully integrated into the curriculum and credit awarded for work.
- The third year of the curriculum contains the majority of the biophysical agricultural coursework. Inclusion of additional biophysical agricultural coursework in the second, fourth, and fifth years would provide continuity and should be considered.
- If the program is to achieve its goal “To equip students with the skills needs to improve agricultural productivity and the development of rural communities”, additional coursework in agricultural production, forestry, a basic course in fisheries, and environmental sciences and ecology should be considered. However, addition of such coursework would require deletion of other courses during the fourth and fifth year programs.
- Even as currently structured, the effective launch and full implementation of the CUofS curriculum will require very significant investments in physical infrastructure and collaborative partnerships with internal and external institutions of higher education. Implementation of the above recommendations would considerably amplify these needs.
University of Juba recommendations:
- Agricultural field experiences need to be fully integrated into the curriculum.
- The virtual lack of social science throughout the curriculum must be addressed. Social analysis skills and knowledge of development theory in particular are relevant to post-conflict Southern Sudan.
- Courses in agribusiness and marketing are necessary additions.
- According to discussions with University of Juba, the first two years of study currently serves as a propedeutic or introductory years (as at CUofS) to help students overcome educational deficiencies due to disruption of secondary schools during the war. Many students (up to half) do not move on to the third year when university standards are much more rigorous. Alternative pathways/credentials should be considered for educationally disadvantaged students who cannot complete the B.S. program.
- Early incorporation of credited practical field experience into the curriculum is highly desirable.
- The above recommendations are made in full recognition of the necessity of careful sequencing of all changes over time. Current inadequate facilities and scarcity of trained personnel largely dictate such strategies as the long and shared core science curriculum. As in the case of the CUofS, effective launch and full implementation of the recommended curriculum changes will require very significant investments in physical infrastructure and collaborative partnerships with internal and external institutions of higher education. Full implementation of the above recommendations would considerably amplify these needs.
- The University of Juba College of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies campus on the other side of the Nile should be rebuilt as soon as possible and be used to initiate short-term agricultural certificate and diploma programs, to provide quality facilities for the College of Natural Resources and Environmental Studies, and to incorporate practical field experiences into undergraduate B.S. agricultural degree programs.
For more information, please see the aforementioned Agricultural Higher Education in Southern Sudan Final Report (pdf, January 2010).