What is GIERI?

GIERI is a two-year development and capacity-building project funded by Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, coordinated by CIMO under the Eritrea-specific HEI-ICI programme. GIERI is about building capacity of Geoinformatics teaching and research in Eritrean Higher Education Institutions (HEI) through a MSc degree programme in Geoinformatics, at Adi Keih College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS), Department of Geography. The project is managed and coordinated jointly by University of Helsinki (Department of Geosciences and Geography) and CASS.

Location of Adi Keih and CASS

Location of Adi Keih and CASS

The project started in November 2015 and will run until December 2017. A thorough Gaps Analysis and Training Needs Assessment was conducted first in Eritrean HEIs to establish the baseline of current capacity in Geoinformatics teaching and research. The results of the analysis confirmed the importance and relevance of starting a MSc programme in Geoinformatics, in order to train geoinformatics professionals for various sectors of Eritrean society, both for public and private sectors. Equally important was the feedback given on training needs, which especially highlighted the need for more practical hands-on training and exercises on different applications of Geoinformatics, instead of too theoretical approach.

Curriculum for the MSc programme was developed together by experts from UH and Eritrean HEIs. Important feedback was given by Eritrean National Commission of Higher Education. A go-ahead to start the MSc programme was given in March 2016. The draft curriculum now includes eight courses with total of 26 study credits, starting from introductory level courses on GIS and remote sensing, to more advanced topics such as spatial analysis, modelling and spatial statistics. Coursework is concentrated in the first year of studies, while the second year is dedicated for MSc thesis research and dissertation, worth of 12 credits.

Teaching started in March-April 2016 with the first course, Principles of Geoinformatics. A separate Geoinformatics laboratory class room with enough space for 20 students has been reserved. The plan is to fully refurbish the laboratory with new furniture and hardware, including modern desktop computers, printer, scanner, GNSS receivers and a local area network for centered data storage and backup.

gieri_gis_lab

Training at class…

gieri_gnss_training

… and in the field.

In our teaching, GIERI only uses Free Open-Source Software for various reasons (read more, for example, here). Software we use include QGIS, GRASS, SAGA and R.

Teaching materials come from various sources: most of them are tailor-made by UH GIS experts, some are using existing free materials found in the internet. We try to use Eritrean GIS data in our training as much as possible to make the exercises more meaningful and interesting. One limiting factor in delivering the teaching is the lack of internet – all materials, including lectures, practicals, software, data – have to be designed to work offline. This also makes it next to impossible to use any distance learning methods.

In the first batch of 12 students who started in March 2016, we have included mostly existing (junior) teaching staff (BSc holders) from Eritrean HEIs, following the training of trainers approach. The idea is that after completing their MSc degrees, these teachers would return to their host universities to teach and supervise students in geoinformatics (in graduate programmes), thus enhancing teaching and research capacity in Geoinformatics.These teachers include 3 from Eritrea Institute of Technology, 1 from Hamelmalo Agricultural College, and 2 from College of Marine Science and Technology (in Massawa).

On the other hand, the three students from CASS will be potential teachers for the MSc Geoinformatics programme themselves after graduation. In addition to the four HEIs, three students from Eritrean Mapping and Information Centre (EMIC) are included in the programme.

Group photo - teachers and students

Group photo – teachers and students

While writing this blog text, we are soon coming to end the second semester of teaching. Next year, in 2017, students will begin their MSc thesis research. Each student has already presented their research proposal and literature review for their supervisors. In the work plan for 2017, GIERI has budgeted funds for teacher/student exchange to University of Helsinki. We hope to invite a student from each college to Finland for a short period in late spring for few weeks. Invited students can enjoy the facilities at UH (library, internet, access to scientific journals), attend short courses or seminars, but most importantly, get co-supervision and feedback on their MSc thesis.

More updates coming soon. Leaving to Eritrea on 3rd December 2016 to teach spatial statistics.

If you want to know more, don’t hesitate to comment below or drop me an e-mail on the address below.

Pekka Hurskainen (pekka(dot)hurskainen(├Ąt)helsinki(dot)fi)

GIERI Project Coordinator, GIS Expert