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Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainable Africa (MESA) aspired to involve all 31 Ethiopian public universities in its initiative enabling them to partner with universities worldwide and contribute to the global effort to strengthen the environment and sustainability across the world.
Universities involved in this initiative are due to craft curricula related to the environment, sustainability, and green economies, according to Heila Lotz-Sisitka (Prof.) Chair of Environmental Education at the Environmental Learning Research Center at Rhodes University ; South Africa.
MESA is an initiative established after studies conducted in 2004 by the United Nations Environment Protection – (UNEP ) and other institutions. These studies underlined the need to boost scientific bases in Africa with regards to environment related matters. Many studies were being done by people from outside of the continent, and a need arose for a more localized perspective. “African universities needed to be able to produce the kind of knowledge about the issues, otherwise we can only get a limited kind of perspective from foreigners,” the chair said in an exclusive interview with Capital.
“Understanding the ecosystems lost on this continent is a very critical issue, and it is why the initiative came to existence. The earth is losing about 60 percent of its ecosystems, which are the foundations of life.”
For the last eight years, 80 universities throughout Africa have partnered with this initiative. On June 15th 2012, in Shanghai, China, just before the Rio Summit, a global universities partnership was launched with more than 120 universities joining. The partnership had a three pillar focus – training, educating, and networking. This partnership has since linked universities worldwide.
Through the initiative, universities can share educational materials. It sorts out ways to train staff and students of member universities, via scholarships, student faculty exchange, and so on, said Prof. Lotz-Sisitka.
“We are having discussions now to engage all the thirty one public universities so that they can contribute to this global partnership,” said Mahesh Pradhan, Chief of the Environmental Education and Training Unit Division of Environmental Policy Implementation (DEPI). The future should be left for students, as they will be the future leaders. They will be much more responsible, he said. “Current trends indicate, we are not doing enough in this area, whether it’s climate change or ecosystems; we need to do more. We also need to build the capacity of the next generation. So this is one effort in that direction.”
One of the things that this project is working on is bringing the knowledge that is gained in universities closer to society.