Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (OeAD) and Centre for International Cooperation & Mobility (ICM) were impressed by the sheer competence of these three National University of Lesotho (NUL) Sustainable Energy Masters students.
So they decided to fund them to hone their energy skills in Austria as part of their NUL experience, through the Ernst Mach Grant for Applied Sciences.
The Ernst Mach Grants are named after the famous Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach (1838-1916). It consists of two sub-programmes, the Ernst Mach Grant worldwide and the Ernst Mach Grant for studying at an Austrian University of Applied Sciences.
Austria is very good in Renewable Energy, especially Bioenergy.
The fearsome threesome are Seema Mofubetsoana, Nts’ebo Sephelane, and ‘Matumelo Taole. They will be in Austria for nearly five months. “We are very happy to go,” said Mr Seema Mofubetsoana, speaking on behalf of the other three. He must be.
The trio are not just attending any university in Austria. They are attending Management Centre Innsbruck (MCI).
Take a moment to think about MCI. In the Universum Talent Survey 2017, the MCI won in the following category “Strongest focus on employability.” It was ranked 2nd place in another category, “Most Satisfied Students.”
No doubt. When they come back, the NUL trio will rank among “the most satisfied students.”
But what, on earth, do NUL students from the little known Lesotho have to do with a far flung Austrian University and, by extension, Austrian Government?
It all starts with NUL itself. NUL is not in the business of making enemies but friends. NUL rejects competition (the 20th century ideology) in favour of cooperation (the 21st century thinking).
So as it continued to build partnerships, the School in the Roma Valley ended up signing an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the MCI.
“What we achieved today was based on that agreement,” said the elated Seema, who did his Electrical Engineering Degree in one good university in South Africa. So the three NUL students will take additional courses in Austria to aid them in fulfilling their two-year Masters’ dissertations at NUL.
As an Electrical Engineer, Seema said a desire to continue his studies in the field of Energy came naturally. However, he said, “I know the challenges that have been caused by our reliance on energy based on fossil fuels.”
For instance, most of the electricity we use is based on the burning of coal which produces a plenty of greenhouse gases.
If you ever wonder why our climate is so upside-down these days, look no further than the burning of fossil fuels to produce energy. So, “I was attracted to the idea of alternative forms of energy—sustainable energy,” he revealed his motives.
But when Seema found himself within the NUL, he entered another world. From the horse’s mouth, “When I came to study Masters at NUL, I thought I already knew a lot. I used to think my eyes were open, only to realize I was still blind.”
There is a good reason for such a feeling.
Here is a South African educated Electrical Engineer in his own right. He was properly schooled in the “nitty-gritty,” the “nuts and bolts,” of Electrical Engineering. Now here he is, at the NUL, learning something like Sustainable Energy. He thought he was just there to “top up.”
He did not know what he was missing!
The whole new world opened right in front of him. “I realised that knowing the technical side of Electrical Engineering was only part of the story.” He was now schooled on how the deeply technical things engineers design interact with the society, for good or for bad.
“As engineers,” he said, “we are rarely exposed to social sciences. But this Masters is such holistic in that it combines the physical with the social.” He said he now understands why projects that are supposed to be engineering marvels end up gathering dust in papers, never to see the light of the day.
“We engineers normally miss the societal and the environmental part of the whole story.” Lo and behold, he is armed with more stars for the program, despite being so holistic, the program is also very practical.
After completing each course, we are challenged to develop what is called a long assignment where we link all the things we learned, social and scientific, to solve real-world problems.”
So it was in the midst of this rigorous program, that NUL and MCI decided to test the exchange agreement reflected on their MOU.
The trio applied and the rest is history.
They will be fully sponsored to focus mainly on bio-energy, an exciting field, when they reach Austria. The country is making great strides in that field.