The YEEES project is linking universities in Germany and southern Africa in the area of teaching and research. Students from all participating countries have taken part in camps with a view to finding solutions for social enterprises, for example.
"We want to encourage teachers to explore new didactic approaches and to develop formats that go beyond simply imparting knowledge", says Jantje Halberstadt from the University of Vechta. An economic sustainability professor, she runs the "YEEES" project. The name stands for "Yields of evocative entrepreneurial approaches for environment and society" and alludes at the same time to the soft and drawn-out way that the word "yes" is pronounced in South Africa.
With funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the DAAD is supporting cooperation between seven universities in Germany, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. Together, the partner institutions want to improve international collaboration in teaching and research. One focus is on developing innovative solutions to questions relating to both entrepreneurship and sustainability. Information and communication technologies (ICT) are used for this purpose. "There is no shortage of information online. The key is to identify which information is actually relevant", says Jantje Halberstadt. YEEES aims to teach this skill, as well as intercultural and other soft skills.
Education, security, the fight against poverty
The annual "Sustainability Camps" are one particularly visible element of the project: students from all participating countries spend four weeks working together on solutions for resilient development. The solutions relate to education, mobility, security or the fight against poverty. During the camps, participants from Germany and southern Africa have already been able to give a great deal of practical impetus at the local level.
For example, they have trained market traders in bookkeeping so that they can keep better track of their stocks and calculate prices more accurately. They helped an entrepreneur in Mozambique who wanted to recycle tin cans. Together with the camp's participants, he found a way of turning this idea for greater sustainability into a viable business model. In South Africa, the camp came up with a concept for how programming clubs could be established at schools in more rural and poorer areas. This saw the participants explore game-based methods of teaching computer skills. A cultural city tour was set up in Namibia, its profits going to local people. All the business ideas generated during the camps were subsequently presented to local stakeholders in politics, business and society – thereby also giving rise to new networks.
Coming together at a digital camp
Since the project was launched in 2016, 150 students and 20 teachers have taken part in the camps in Germany, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. "The YEEES project serves as a catalyst when it comes to promoting solution-oriented thinking and action", says Mozambique-based Shaun Bissett, who coordinates the activities of the YEEES training centre in Africa. "Furthermore, YEEES played a part in setting up the Entrepreneurship Hub at Universidade Save here in Mozambique."
Because personal meetings at the local level and expert networks characterise the work done by YEEES, the impact of the corona pandemic on the project has been all the greater. "Schools and universities in Mozambique have been closed since March", says Shaun Bissett. "It is not clear when teaching will resume." The situation is similar in the other partner countries, which is why virtual formats are currently being developed. A digital version of the camp is also being put to the test for the first time. Jantje Halberstadt is optimistic: "Now we simply have to take a business-like approach ourselves and view the challenges as opportunities to develop viable solutions. With our highly-committed partners in the YEEES network I'm sure we'll succeed."