PhD Training Opportunities under the RUFORUM
Graduate Teaching Assistantship Program
Escalating PhD training in Africa: RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship Programme
Over the years, universities in Africa have sought opportunities to send their staff for post-graduate training abroad in a bid to strengthen research and training, at very high costs. The loss of faculty for 4 to 5 years has negatively affected universities. In order to meet the growing demand for Doctoral level scientists in Africa, the Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) programme was initiated by RUFORUM Vice Chancellorsto improve the quality of higher education at African Universities by increasing the proportion of academic staff with PhD qualifications, contributing to locally relevant research and reducing the time away from the home institution. The initiative was officially launched by the African Union Commissioner for Human Resource, Science and Technology, H.E. Dr Martial De Paul Ikounga on 25th July 2014 at Maputo, Mozambique during the RUFORUM Fourth Biennial Conference. The specific objectives of the GTA are to:
- Improve the quality of higher education and increase the pool of PhD-level trained academic staff in African universities;
- Provide opportunities for the doctoral research to contribute more directly to African development
- Strengthen inter- university collaboration in the field of higher education in Africa; and
- Promote staff mobility among RUFORUM member universities, and across Africa.
The RUFORUM Secretariat announces the availability of 325 PhD training opportunities for the next 5 years under the GTA for the academic year beginning January, 2017. Potential applicants who are teaching staff at RUFORUM Member Universities are invited to submit applications to the RUFORUM Secretariat through a two-step process. Specific criteria for each step are indicated below.
- Step 1: Identify and apply directly to University for the relevant program of choice to obtain admission into the program.
- Step 2: Apply to the RUFORUM Secretariat for the GTA.
The successful applicants will meet the following criteria:
- Must be a staff member from a RUFORUM Member University who has been nominated for PhD training by his/her university;
- Should have support letter from the sending University confirming nomination and support for travel, stipend, medical insurance and research funds;
- Applicant should have a Master degree relevant to the proposed field of PhD study;
- Applicant should identify, apply and be admitted to the graduate program by the host University;
- Applicant should complete the RUFORUM GTA application form which should be submitted at the same time that the application form is submitted for PhD admission.
Expectations and Responsibilities:
- Each successful T.A. will contribute to the host university by participating in teaching during his/her training in the Department hosting the PhD Training programme
- No G.T.A. may be employed by another organization, other than the sending and host university during their time of study.
- A 100% tuition fee waiver and accommodation provided by the host university
- The sending university will normally be expected to assist the host university to arrange for supervision of field work and thesis where the research is to be undertaken in the home/sending country
- Sending universities are responsible for identifying and nominating staff for GTA placement
- The GTA positions are open not only for agriculture related fields but also other fields depending on staff development priority of the sending university
- Sending Universities may opt to send a list of staff requiring PhD training under the GTA arrangement and the RUFORUM Secretariat assists in facilitating placement of the nominated staff to universities with the appropriate fields of the required training
- Sending universities may nominate more than five staff for training under the GTA arrangement
- Universities hosting GTA students may opt to recruit more than five GTA students
Upon nomination by the sending/ home university, the RUFORUM Secretariat will;
- Facilitate the placement of nominated candidates to appropriate universities,
- Facilitate contract signing i) between successful applicant and the host university, and ii) between the sending university and host university
- Follow up on training at host/sending university, and report to home/sending university,
- Link the GTA beneficiaries to other RUFORUM graduate students and other opportunities
- Applicants are encouraged to submit admission applications directly to the host university but with copies to RUFORUM Secretariat, Training and Quality Assurance Unit, P.O Box 16811, Kampala, Uganda, email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nominating Universities should send official letters of nomination and commitment addressed to the hosting University with a copy to RUFORUM Secretariat
Date of 4th release of the GTA announcement: 21st January 2017
 The GTA was initiated by 42 African Vice Chancellors whose universities are members of RUFORUM.
Mr. Eliafie Mwanga, a Tanzanian, completed his MSc in Irrigation and Water Resources Engineering in 2015 at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, with funding from the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI). iAGRI is a USAID Feed the Future Project aimed at strengthening training and building collaborative research capacities of Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MALF) with the goal of improving food security and agricultural productivity in Tanzania. In the past five years, the project engaged with RUFORUM to facilitate placement of 31 young Tanzanian scientists to pursue their master’s degrees at nine selected RUFORUM member universities in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Upon completing his studies, Eliafie returned to Tanzania to work with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation as a civil engineer where he has been providing technical support and oversight in construction of earth fill dams for irrigation. With him as a technical leader, he assembled a strong team which constructed a 6,600,000 m3 earth fill dam for sprinkler irrigation and domestic water supply in Sikonge District. This dam is meeting the water needs of the people in the district.
Eliafie attributes his success to the multidisciplinary, practical-oriented and innovative nature of the master’s course at the University of Nairobi and the soft skills enhancement training he received through RUFORUM. He is thus equipped with technical skills in engineering as well as skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, leadership, and teamwork. In the course of his work, he has encountered several challenges, but this strong foundation has enabled him to overcome these obstacles with ease. Without a doubt, the skills enhancement trainings organized by RUFORUM built his leadership skills and have given him a professional edge:
“I am successfully leading a team of professional engineers and surveyors in carrying out feasibility studies and dam construction. Although I am a junior member of the team, I am technically knowledgeable and equipped with leadership skills. That’s what makes me different”, says Eliafie Mwanga.
Eliafie‘s story demonstrates the impact of one agricultural scientist who has been empowered with both technical and transferable skills and is committed to improving food security and rural livelihoods in his home country, but his is not alone. Several of the other alumni of the iAGRI-RUFORUM collaboration are also contributing to this goal. A survey to track their progress after completion of studies showed that they have fully reintegrated into the agricultural system of Tanzania and are stellar performers, contributing to food security efforts in the country.
During a two-day meeting on 8-9 February 2017, members of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) Steering Committee met at the GFAR host organization, FAO in Rome, to set the agenda for this global forum on agri-food research and innovation, towards helping to meet the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). GFAR has undergone a major transformation and now brings together a vibrant and fast-growing community of self-declared Partners in GFAR (presently 433 partner organizations), who recognize that these complex challenges can only be met through working together for success. The Forum’s Steering Committee now comprises 34 elected representatives, from across 13 sectors involved in agricultural research and innovation at international, regional and local levels. Prof. Agnes Mwang’ombe of the University of Nairobi is among the new Steering Committee Members, representing the Higher Education Constituency.
Through the meeting in Rome, members of the Steering Committee agreed on the key areas of focus to be addressed in the next GFAR Medium-Term-Plan. Based on the challenges determined through the GCARD3 process and the need to deliver towards the SDGs, the Steering Committee identified the following GFAR key focus areas in 2018-2021:
- Enable and empower sustainable rural communities: Poor communities have little say in their own future, nor the innovations needed to get there. Communities need to be able to determine their own futures,through tools such as foresight,farmers’ rights advocacy and capacity development, and to drive and ‘own’ the research, innovation, policies and support needed to achieve their desired sustainable futures.
- Increasing knowledge flow for development impact: Innovation systems operate as complex webs, yet links between their elements are often fragmented and disconnected. Multi-stakeholder research and innovation platforms must be fosteredat different levels, to create more effective and equitable systems, capable of collectively generating, accessing and using the knowledgeand resources required for successfully meeting the SDGs.
- Supporting transformative learning and youth leadership development:Neither formal nor informal education are as yet meeting the needs of youthfacing global challenges. Comprehensive transformative learning and leadership development schemes are needed, to develop not only academic skills, but also intellectual, spiritual and emotional development,toinspire and equip our youth with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to meet their aspirations, access resources and mobilize themselves to create sustainable rural development.
- Changing value systems and metrics to deliver the SDGs:“Agricultural Productivity” has long been the core driver of agricultural research and innovation. However, the SDGs set out much wider development objectives and indicators, all impacted by, or on, agriculture and food systems.Meeting these requires re-thinking the values and metrics for agri-food innovation, and demonstrating delivery towards SDG social, environmental and economic impacts.
- Enabling sustainable rural enterprise: Agriculture is often seen as unattractive and in decline and there is a global exodus of rural youth. Sustainable rural enterprise development can address this challenge through using agriculture and food innovation, new developments such as ICTs, value-added linkages to consumers/markets,and supportive policies and inputs,to create new rural enterprise opportunities, particularly for resource-poor women and youth.
Steering Committee members recognized that within this frame, there is tremendous opportunity for a wide range of new and existing networked action towards specific SDG outcomes. The Members set out initial ideas for their actions within each area of focus. These will be further elaborated through input from GFAR Partners in the coming weeks to shape proposed collective actions as the draft GFAR Medium Term Plan 2018-2021.
Also at the meeting, current GFAR Chair, Juan Lucas Restrepo, confirmed his intention to step down, due to an anticipated change of role. The Committee appointed Shantanu Mathur of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) as interim Vice-Chair.
Adapted from the document: Key points summary for GFAR Steering Committee members to share with their constituency
The Master of Science Degree in Research Methods hosted by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) is one of the six collaborative regional master’s degree programmes established by the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM). Launched in 2009, the programme was established in response to the large unmet demand in the labour market for professionals skilled in agricultural research methods. In November 2016, the programme graduated 14 master’s students which brings to 100 the total number of graduates who have been equipped with interdisciplinary research methodology skills. The graduates have been drawn from Benin, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The 2016 MSc Research Methods graduates at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology categorised by gender and nationality
||Immaculee Abingoye Mayugi
||Jirata Megersa Tadesse
Graduates from the course have returned to their home countries and constitute a pool of mid-level practical professionals engaging in policy analysis, research, graduate teaching in Biostatistics and Biometry, consultancy services in data analysis and reporting, and design of Monitoring and Evaluation tools for impact evaluation. Some of the graduates have opted to further advance their qualifications in the field and enrolled for PhD programmes.