Dessie is the largest city in northeast Ethiopia and located between two chains of mountains. Only a few places in the area are suitable for modern agribusiness. Dessie is also home to Wollo University, where CD4D Ambassador Professor Ayalew Kassahun developed a locally embedded curriculum as part of a CD4D assignment in 2018.
Ayalew is originally from Ethiopia. His extended family still lives in and around Dessie. He knows the area, its people and its history very well. He came to the Netherlands in 1993 to study environmental sciences and IT, after which he started working as a specialist in agri-food supply chains at Wageningen University. Through his participation in the CD4D project, he got to know the staff of Wollo University, which inspired him to continue working with them after the CD4D assignment.
Last Thursday, Ayalew gave a training on the importance of developing university curricula which are locally embedded. “Many African universities copy curricula from India or Europe. If you do that, you educate young people to become employed in those foreign markets, not in their home country. That is why a locally embedded curriculum is so important”.
When developing curricula, Ayalew keeps the future of students in mind. “Some things are not just about academic excellence. They are about who we are and what we want to achieve. The first thing I do when developing a curriculum is ask: who will the students become?”, he says. He adds: “Wollo University should train students so that at least 90 percent of them will have jobs”.
Ayalew recognizes the responsibility that comes with deciding what students learn at the university. He asserts that “a curriculum is not about content only; it is also about changing a culture”. The curricula which Ayalew designed at Wollo University will prepare students for their future. They will be able to make a business plan for modern agri-food
Together with his compatriots, Ayalew executed a systematic review of all scientific articles published about the focus areas of Wollo University before developing an IT-driven agri-food business curriculum. He noticed that researchers have published many articles about health, agriculture and methodological questions. Publications about business, management, logistics, energy, engineering, basic science, tourism, sociology or religion are rare. According to Ayalew, the university needs more relevant research addressing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to attract the attention of the research community. “The curricula must support excellent, relevant, and useful research that can be applied in practice. Trainers need to focus on SDGs and need to develop locally embedded, entrepreneurship-oriented curricula”, he says.