Education program boosts development around sustainability goals in East Africa
For a year, researchers at Mälardalen University (MDH) and the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) have been educating government officials and decision-makers in Ethiopia and Rwanda, in the areas of digital learning, public health sciences and sustainable development. The first program has now been completed, and the researchers have received continued financial support to further develop the program in more countries.
The project OnE LEARNS (Online Education for LEAdeRs in Nutrition and Sustainability) is a collaboration between MDH and KTH which is funded by The Swedish Institute (SI). It is aimed at government officials and persons in decision-making positions at NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in the participating countries, to increase knowledge about digital learning, digital health literacy (the ability to, among other things, acquire, understand, select, and value health information), public health nutrition and the global sustainability goals.
"We have now completed the first program, which has been carried out in Ethiopia and Rwanda," says Katarina Bälter, Professor of Public Health Sciences and Project Manager at MDH.
Education through an online course
Under the framework of the program, MDH and KTH have created an online course with the help of a system that has been developed by Carnegie Mellon University in the US. The course content includes online teaching via self-study, group work, seminars, and a joint closing workshop.
"We conducted the first round of the programme in the spring of 2021 and had over 70 applicants for 20 places. After completing the course, 80 percent of the participants indicated that their ability to drive change within their respective organisations had increased significantly when it came to working with the global sustainability goals," says Katarina Bälter.
Great potential with inter-sectoral cooperation
Feben Javan Abraham is a fully qualified physician from Ethiopia who has studied both a Master's in Nutrition and a Master's in Global Health from Sweden. She is also a research assistant at MDH, who helps coordinate the project and has created some of the course content.
"I believe that the main effect will be that past and future participants see the potential of cooperation between different sectors, to help specialists deal with problems from different perspectives. I have received feedback from participants who tell me that they have not previously viewed certain issues in the way that we presented them," she says.
She also believes that the project will make it possible to get access to more solutions for decision-makers and those who have the ability to influence their surroundings.
"For example, we have a physician who took part in the course on digital health literacy and then started Facebook campaigns to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
The knowledge from the program will result in a larger "solution bank" in the future," says Feben Javan Abraham.
Success that produces continued funding
The project will now enter a second phase.
"After the success of the first phase, we have received further funding from SI to run the program again, and this time will Kenya be included. We are currently in the recruitment period and are in the process of selecting the most qualified candidates from almost 80 applicants that who applied this year.
The project setup, with online courses, has also given Feben new insights.
"It's been an eye-opener for me about how much we can achieve with online learning! So far we have only scratched the surface," concludes Feben Javan Abraham.
Along with Feben and Katarina, Christine Persson Osowski, Senior Lecturer in Public Health Sciences with a focus on sustainable development, is also a member of MDH's project group. The project, which is part of The Swedish Institute's "Public Sector Innovation Program" initiative, is being conducted in cooperation with researchers and teachers at KTH, including two employees from Rwanda.
Global sustainable development goals
MDH is conducting research in all of the UN’s global goals for sustainability. The OnE LEARNS project is linked to goals number 2, 3, 4, 12 and 17.
The video above shows participants from Ethiopia and Rwanda who participated in the program in spring 2021.
UN's sustainable development goals
MDH is conducting operations in all of the UN’s global goals for sustainability. Collaboration can be linked to goal number 17, Partnerships for the Goals.Research on the UN's sustainable development goals