Austria, here we come!

Austria, here we come!

ROMA – THREE National University of Lesotho (NUL) Sustainable Energy Masters students have impressed international donors and scooped scholarships to an Austrian university.
The Austrian Agency for International Cooperation in Education and Research (OeAD) and Centre for International Cooperation & Mobility (ICM) were impressed by the sheer competence of the trio.
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.
Austria has very good programmes in renewable energy, especially bioenergy.
The three students are Seema Mofubetsoana, Ntšebo Sephelane, and ’Matumelo Taole.
They will be in Austria for nearly five months.
“We are very happy to go,” said Mofubetsoana, speaking on behalf of the others.
He must be.

The trio is not just attending any university in Austria.
They are attending the 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 second 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.

You see, NUL is not in the business of making enemies but friends.
Yes, 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 an 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 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.
“I was attracted to the idea of alternative forms of energy — sustainable energy,” he said.
Sustainable energy is the energy based on renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass and so on.
The world is yet to teach itself how to use this form of energy and by the time it does, it may as well be too late, hence the sense of urgency.
But when Seema found himself within the NUL, he entered another world.
“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 realise I was still blind,” he said.
He might as well have said, “NUL Masters in Sustainable Energy, e ntlhotlile boikhohomoso,” (“NUL Masters in Sustainable Energy has humbled me.”).

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!
A 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 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.”
He is armed with more stars for the programme, “despite being so holistic, the programme 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 programme 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.
Well, thank you, the Government of Austria, for thinking outside the boundaries.

Own Correspondent


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