Wetenschap - 17 september 1998

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International Student Housing Falls Short
The WAU has suddenly found itself in a housing crisis for international students coming to Wageningen
The way it looks right now, there will be 24 rooms too few as of October 1st, reports Jan Harkema, adjunct-director of Wageningen's student housing organisation SSHW. The SSHW has almost 550 rooms specially labelled for international students, but this year, this will not be enough to meet demand. Specially labelled rooms include basic furniture and curtains, things which are not provided for Dutch students. According to the Dean of International Students, Tiny Backus, there is always a peak period of incoming international students following the summer, but this year it is more serious than usual, because of a higher concentration of PhD and exchange students arriving at the same time
The Dean's office is presently holding discussions with the SSHW in order to come up with possible solutions to the temporary housing shortage. Backus is clearly concerned: At this point, we still don't know how this will be solved. The idea of temporarily sharing accommodation would not be our first option, though we would consider it if we have to. In the meantime, there are nine students now living in temporary corridors in the Asserpark and Hoevestein student flats. The accommodation is very spartan without telephone connections and the rooms have very small windows so high up that you can only look out by standing on a chair
One international exchange student arrived in Wageningen to find herself living alone in the corridor for the first few days. She was not impressed: This is the first time I've been outside of my country, and not even my parents could reach me. Looking into why she had been allocated one of the temporary rooms, she discovered that although having booked the room well in advance, the SSHW works on an alphabetical system of priority. My last name starts with z, so I kept moving down to the bottom of the list, she explains. She is now living illegally in another room while waiting to be officially relocated to another corridor, which is why her name is not published here. The problem of uncomfortable accommodation will continue for the short-term. At the moment it is difficult to say when the students will get a real room, admits Harkema
Besides increasing the number of international student rooms, Harkema reports that a special inventory needs to be made of the furniture currently available to international students. Much of the furniture is now falling into disrepair, he explains, And besides, we need to purchase new furniture to meet the increase in specially labelled rooms. Harkema estimates the funds needed to rehabilitate the furnished rooms at about fl 100,000. The SSHW is initiating discussions with the University, DLO institutes and the Dean's Office in order to find a way to share these costs
Rebuilding Livestock Health Data in Somalia
If people had enough security, the problems that have caused wars in Somalia could be avoided. Security in the Northern Somali context, according to Abdisalaam Shiek Abdilahi, means a healthy and well-distributed livestock population. Abdilahi went back home to conduct research in the now peaceful northern region last year for the first time after spending six years in Holland as a refugee. His research on livestock diseases and their economic implications came about through a one-year contract with the Animal Husbandry department
When Abdilahi left in 1991, his country was in the midst of a civil war which destroyed all the records he and his colleagues in animal health research had built up over the years. What is important to me now is to make a solid inventory of the animal production systems, in order to advise on policies for establishing a much needed rehabilitation programme in animal husbandry, he reports
Livestock is the main source of income for Somalia, through meat sales both within the country and for export. Goats and sheep especially are like bank savings to farmers there, Abdilahi maintains. Milk is the most important local dietary product coming from the livestock, which also includes camels and cattle. Interviewing 70 nomads and 30 sedentary farmers in the Awdal region, Abdilahi concluded that tick-borne diseases (especially Heartwater and Nairobi Sheep Disease) cause the most serious problems, and lead to substantial economic losses. Cattle, sheep and goats are most susceptible to diseases, while camels are much hardier, and even able to survive without water for over a month. One contributing factor is a lack of appropriate treatment methods. Traditional treatments are not able to combat tick-borne diseases, and farmers cannot afford expensive conventional medicines. According to Abdilahi, this would cost up to 75% of farmers' income. At present there are also no facilities for initiating a vaccination programme, an option that Abdilahi wishes to investigate
Funds Raised for Chinese Flood Victims
The Association of Chinese Students and Scholars of Wageningen (ACSSW) has raised over fl. 5,600 from the WAU and DLO institutes to help aid-workers deal with the emergency situation caused by China's worst flooding in 44 years. The group initiated its fund-raising efforts in mid-August when the floods, affecting one-fifth of the population of China, were at their worst
We were very concerned when we saw all the media reports, and needed to do something to help, explains Ruiqing Huang, head of the ACSSW, which has 70 members. Besides raising funds among the Chinese population of Wageningen, the ACSSW decided to expand their efforts outside the group. Within days, Huang had support from Rector Cees Karssen, and began an e-mail drive to department heads of the University and the DLO institutes. About half of the members of the ACSSW also personally approached staff members for donations. Huang is pleased with the generous donations received. He adds,I'd like to thank all those who contributed to this effort. We had no experience in doing this kind of thing before, and the process developed with the help of many different people. The money raised is being sent to the Red Cross Society of China, for emergency use
The floods have now subsided and the emergency situation is now receiving less media attention, but almost 5 million people have been left homeless and reconstruction damage in China is estimated at US 24 billion
Gender and Engineering MScs Cancelled
Last week's Executive Board meetings on the future of international MSc programming resulted in the cancellation of next year's MSc programmes in both Gender and Rural Development (GARD) and Agricultural Engineering (AE). The latter was cancelled due to the lack of applicants as well as scholarships for the MSc programme. A discussion is now under way on how to incorporate an AE thesis into the Soil & Water and Environmental Sciences programmes. Cancelling the GARD MSc comes as a result of the provisional decision not to expand international programming until the current cutbacks have been worked out in terms of already existing MSc programmes. Considering the amount of interest in a GARD MSc programme, Bert Speelman, Education head of the Board, remarked I would not say that it is cancelled forever, the idea will remain on the back burner. But it will certainly not be offered next year.

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