Free Online course – Africa: Sustainable Development for All?

africa farmingThe University of Aberdeen is to deliver a new form of learning to audiences around the world with the launch of a free course as part of an online community offering accessible education to all.


Learners in all corners of the globe will have an opportunity to engage with a range of experts, including academics from Aberdeen and other leading professionals, on a course examining the challenges facing Sub-Saharan Africa.


Now open for booking and commencing on 22nd June Africa: Sustainable Development for All? will provide an introduction to study of the region for anyone with a passion for humanity and an interest in sustainable development.


The six-week free course, which requires just a couple of hours study each week, will be led by Dr Hilary Homans, director of the University’s Centre for International Sustainable development. Dr Homans has worked in international development in 48 countries since 1987 with the UK Department for International Development and the United Nations.  This included a period as an emergency humanitarian coordinator post-earthquake.


The course will also include contributions from leading authorities on sustainable development and Sub-Saharan Africa including Zainab Hawa Bangura who has over 20 years experience in governance, conflict resolution and reconciliation in Africa and was appointed as Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict in September 2012, Sir Malcolm Bruce, who has been the chairman of the UK  International Development Select Committee since 2005 and Dr Agnes Binagwaho Minister of Health for Rwanda.


It will be delivered through a mix of films, music and novels, alongside academic texts, to enable learners to analyse different ways of seeing, listening and experiencing received wisdoms about development.


The course will also include opportunities for those taking part to engage with the academics leading the course and each other to discuss their own experiences in order to understand why inclusive development has not yet been realised.


Dr Homans said: “Africa as a continent is rich in natural resources and has increasing wealth in some areas. But there are many countries in sub-Saharan Africa that continue to perform poorly on important development indicators – poverty, hunger and unemployment remain high, while access to maternal and reproductive health services is limited.  Other countries such as Rwanda have however, made considerable progress.


“This free online course will introduce learners to these inequalities and, as the UN shapes its post-2015 development agenda this year, we will ask whether we can achieve sustainable development for all in sub-Saharan Africa.


“It will be delivered with engagement from those living and working at the heart of the region as well as academics working in a range of disciplines from history and philosophy to biological and social sciences, nutrition and health.


“What happens in this part of the world has an impact across the globe and this course will provide a useful introduction to anyone with an interest in humanity, human rights and development and what can be done to tackle inequality.”


Audiences in Aberdeen will have an opportunity to get a flavour of the course and the issues it will cover at a free event hosted by Dr Homans at this year’s May Festival. She will present The Future of Sustainable Development in sub-Saharan Africa in the King’s College Conference Centre, Old Aberdeen from 2-3pm on Friday May 29 where she will explore the success and challenges faced in reaching the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.


Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, said: “The University undertakes a wide variety of cultural and public engagement activities and the FutureLearn platform will enable us to take this engagement to a new level, showcasing our excellent research and teaching to people around the world.


“FutureLearn will enable us to provide accessible learning opportunities for life and  thought-provoking conversation through interactive education.


“It is fitting that on a platform with a world-wide reach, the University of Aberdeen has selected to focus on a leading global issue and we look forward to this engaging course examining the challenges of sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa.”