Spotlight: Valentine C. Shipula, is 49 years old and lives Shinyanga municipality in the Shinyanga region of Tanzania. Valentine is employed by the government as principal livestock officer at Meatu District Council since June 2010. Before joining the government Valentine was working with an NGO in the same district. In November 2014 Valentine joined Sokoine University of Agriculture to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Range Management (BSc. Range Management), a degree programme of 3 years duration. Valentine will graduated during November 2017.
The Project and its relevance
The main purpose of the PREPARE BSc. Project is "Enhancing the quality of graduates of agriculture to meet tomorrow’s food security challenge" while the overall objective is "to enable the universities to develop competent relevant high level human resources within agriculture, veterinary science and related fields to address food security as part of socio-economic development needs of the societies in East Africa". Among other of its activities; secondary school sensitization is the key activity which is conducted outside the University. At university level the mentorship programme has been going on within the College of Agriculture, where each student is assigned to a tutor as academic advisor throughout the entire period of his/her stay at the university.
This project is very crucial since it aims at building the capacities of students in the field of agriculture which is the backbone of the national's socio-economic development. The project will help to strengthen learning and teaching methodologies within the participating universities. Therefore the country will benefit from having high quality graduates who will add value to the country's workforce. At institution level the quality of subject matter delivery have had been improved after some of the lecturers being trained on didactics, pedagogical skills and student mentorship.
How did you become involved?
At our university the BSc. Range Management degree programme is under the department of animal, aquaculture and range sciences (DAARS) within the College of Agriculture. We were selected from four different degree programmes (Range management, Animal science, Aquaculture and Agriculture general). Since that time I have been involved in different sets of project activities.
The Project and your role
In the first place I was involved in meetings; for instance in early November 2016 I was one of the participants of the Prepare BSc. Project - Youth Conference held at Grand Global Hotel in Uganda. Again, I participated in sensitisation meetings with A-level secondary school students in Tanzania so as to sensitize them to join agriculture related degree programmes within our university (SUA). During this exercise the team was divided into 3 groups where we visited A-level secondary schools in three regions (Dodoma, Morogoro and Dar-Es-Salaam).
What advantages does working with international partners bring?
The importance of involving ACP and EU HEIs in this project is based on the exchange of experiences. The benefit foreseen at the project level is the financial support from ACP-EU Co-operation Program in Higher Education which enabled this project to materialise. At the student level this project has helped us link with our fellow students from other participating universities within the region, where we have been exchanging different information related to our field of studies. During the conference in Uganda students have good time of exchanging views related to what is going on within our region and now we are communicating through social media.
What are your expectations from the results?
My expectation was to experience new learning methods in the field of agriculture. To some extent this is going to happen since the university is in the process of reviewing curricula, where the emphasis will be on student-centred learning in contrary to the conventional way of teaching. Also it was my expectation to see the increased Private-public collaborations between universities and agriculture industry. Nowadays, there are a number of trainings which have been taking place at our university with the emphasis of expanding collaboration between private groups with SUA. For instance in the month of February 2017 the department of engineering sciences and technology organised tractor training course to the private and public individuals who are interested in starting or doing farming as a business. This training helped orient those farmers on how they can access services and credits from tractor dealer sales representatives, financial support services and banks respectively. Therefore, these expectations are connected to the objectives of the project and activities establishing linkages between universities and industry players.
Have you identified any impact to date?
On a personal level my presentation skills have improved directly as a result of participating in the project activities and in the new teaching methods implemented by the lecturers, who are now offering time for students to discuss the lecture topics. This helps much in building confidence. Also through participating in this project I came to the point of realising that agriculture can be done as a business. This was one of the discussion topics at the Kampala conference, where the emphasise was on seeing the opportunities which can be drawn from the field of agriculture and how the East African graduates can participate in creating jobs from the field of agriculture.
The project has helped sensitise the university in improving the teaching and learning environment. Some of the issues we raised concerning the learning process have been worked on. For instance, at SUA Solomon Mahlangu Campus we had shortage of outdoor concrete benches; nowadays the university has had constructed many of them. Also there were poor power point screens within our university, but recently the management has installed them in most of our lecture rooms. Therefore, through improving teaching and learning environment other beneficiaries (students) have benefited through spill over effect. For other stakeholders it is true that they have benefited through trainings and meetings. For instance, there are some tutors who attended trainings which were organised by the project management team at SUA (e.g. training in didactics, pedagogic skills and student mentorship skills). Again, the A-level secondary schools’ students have had opportunities of being sensitised on joining degree programmes related to the field of agriculture.