The 2020 NEWAL activities consisted of a “winter school” in Ghana and a follow-up one day virtual workshop. The goal was to bring together students from various disciplines and countries to focus on the topics of “Water and Life” while working in a transcultural and translingual setting. The students from different academic institutions worked across disciplines and developed applied research projects with practical contributions towards a more sustainable ecosystem. The four elements of the 2020 activities are outlined below.
Step 1: Application and Preparation
A call for interested Bachelor and Master students at the collaborating NEWAL Swiss and West African institutions was announced a few months before the school was to take place, with students being asked to apply by submitting CVs and letters of interest.
General topics for the students’ Bachelor and Master research projects were defined prior to the winter school and students were expected to do initial preparatory work (literature research, possibly data collection).
Step 2: Winter School at KNUST, Kumasi Ghana, February 2020
The 5-day winter school included inputs, case studies, and field excursions. Following up on presentations by researchers from the Swiss and West African collaborating institutions, as well as field excursions and discussions with local stakeholders, the participating students worked in groups exploring the nexuses between the SDGs, the overarching challenges of water in West Africa, and their respective research interests.
Step 3: Remote research
After the winter school, the students worked on their research, collecting information about the most pressing challenges faced by local communities concerning water and the respective SDGs, and addressing a particular challenge that they, along with their supervisor, identified as the focus of their research.
The research took into consideration the local context and outcomes from the winter school activities. Due to the global pandemic situation, the students from Switzerland who had planned to do field work in West Africa were unfortunately not able to do so. Instead they used online resources to complement their research.
Step 4: Online workshop
After having completed their research activities at their respective academic institutions, the students met in a one day online workshop to present and discuss the results of their work. This step had initially been planned as a «summer school» in Switzerland but the format had to be changed due to 2020 global travel restrictions. During the workshop, discussions were held on ways forward, opportunities for the students to pursue further related activities, and collaboration opportunities for all involved academic institutions.