In early September Rod Purcell and Dave Beck from CR&DALL visited the University of Jimma in Ethiopia.
The University of Jimma is rated as the No 1 public university in Ethiopia and 39th in Africa. It has 42,000 students and offers a full spectrum of course provision including Medical and Agricultural Schools. The city of Jimma has a population of around 120,000 and is a major regional centre in the south west of of Ethiopia.
What makes Jimma unusual is its extensive and well developed commitment to community engagement. This is reflected in the university strap line: ‘we are in the community’. The university runs the local hospital, health centres, has a free legal aid centre, and establishes local social enterprises. Without doubt the university is a major contributor to the economic and social development within its local region.
Students across all undergraduate and post graduate programmes are organised into inter-disciplinary teams, undertake training courses and are then located in the community. The students work with local leaders and organisations on problem solving schemes including schooling, health, housing, and transport provision. The students receive academic credit for this work.
Rod and Dave held a series of meetings with the President of the University and members of his senior management team. Under discussion were possible joint research and development initiatives with CR&DALL around community engagement, the role of schools in the community and the contribution to social justice from the community engagement programme.