Wu Zhigang gives handson training to Ethiopian veterinarian students
When he set foot in the Hawassa region of central Ethiopia to train local agricultural technicians, Chinese veterinarian Wu Zhigang, made an unexpected encounter: he met Damtew Dorsiso, one of his former students.
Dorsiso told him that he now had an enviable job. After graduating in August 2017 from Alage Agricultural, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ATVET) College, he became a veterinarian with the training center for farmers and breeders in Wendo Genet District. Wu was glad to see that his student had made good progress, while Dorsiso, for his part, expressed his wish to join another of Wu's training courses, if possible.
It was the second time for Wu to join the Chinese agricultural expert mission to Ethiopia. Like the first time from October 2016 to August 2017, the experienced veterinarian from Hebei Province in north China was dispatched to Alage ATVET College, just south of the capital Addis Ababa. This is where he, along with other Chinese and Ethiopian instructors, gives training courses to about 1,500 students in the Department of Veterinary Medicine.
Practice comes first
Agriculture and livestock breeding are the two economic pillars of Ethiopia, which is home to the largest livestock population on the African continent. However, because of the shortage of fodder and the disastrous effects of various diseases, the local breeding industry has long been struggling with a difficult situation. In addition, few colleges are able to set up real veterinary medicine courses, as the knowledge of most teachers is limited to theory.
Another challenge facing Ethiopia is that there is not a single veterinary drug manufacturing factory in the country. Medicines and related equipment for veterinary needs are therefore insufficient, expensive and highly dependent on imports and foreign aid. When an animal gets sick, its breeder often has no choice but to let it die due to lack of medicine.
"This also means that students often do not have the chance to treat sick animals and that their knowledge is mostly theoretical. The most important thing, therefore, is to develop their practical knowledge," Wu told ChinAfrica.
Wu teaches local farmers in a demonstration center
On the first day he arrived in Ethiopia in October 2016, Wu immediately got down to action. Within a few hours he had successfully conducted a difficult operation on a sick cow, saving the animal.
Such diligence and professionalism immediately earned him great repute from his Ethiopian colleagues, some of whom had received specialist training in China. During their daily exchanges, his colleagues shared with him their concerns regarding the lack of teaching tools, surgical materials and even textbooks, hoping that the Chinese experts could help them solve some of these problems.
Wu, aware of the critical importance of having the right tools to do a good job, decided to follow up with the university's warehouses. It was there that he was given some unused surgical kits and examination tools which he then used to teach students and colleagues.
For the equipment still lacking, the Chinese expert decided to make it himself. During a routine diagnostic examination ahead of a clinical surgery, he realized that there were no surgical drapes, used for isolating and disinfecting the incision area during operations. With the help of his Ethiopian colleagues, he bought fabrics in a market located some 40 km away and made 12 drapes that they then donated to the university.
Wu gives hands-on training courses on a daily basis to his students in the veterinary hospital affiliated to Alage ATVET College. At first, his students were a little afraid of touching sick animals, he said, but after a few months they became more comfortable, and were already able to perform routine operations. After graduating from the college, some even became qualified veterinarians in their hometowns, as was the case for Dorsiso.
Moreover, Chinese experts conduct surveys on breeding conditions in farms located nearby the college. They also use their free time to expand the university's training field. Outside the campus, Wu and his colleagues are also involved in local communities, through training and demonstration projects. It is during one of these agricultural technical training sessions, lasting one week, that Wu met by chance his former student in Hawassa in January 2018.
Wu gives a demonstration to his students
Deeply appreciated efforts
Wu is part of the 18th mission of Chinese experts to provide agricultural training courses at Ethiopian ATVET colleges. Since the first mission in 2001, their goal has remained unchanged: to train high-quality Ethiopian agricultural technicians and improve the education system in the field. And so far, the results are convincing.
Genanew Abera Teshome, who graduated from Alage ATVET College in 2016, now works as an instructor at the college's Animal Science Department. As he told China Daily, there is a big difference between what he studied in college and what he learned by working shoulder to shoulder with Chinese experts.
"I learned only theory, almost nothing practical (in university)," he told China Daily. I've gained many practical skills while at the Alage ATVET College from the Chinese experts. I enjoy working with them. Now I help them with their work, and I can help society after I leave the college."
"It's the Chinese Government and Chinese instructors who started the training program here. It's been really supportive. In agricultural technologies, we're very poor; we don't have many instructors who can facilitate the training program. It's because of the Chinese that we're able to run these programs," Alage ATVET College Vice Chancellor Temertu Sahlu told China Daily.
"The demonstration centers the Chinese experts have helped set up are very useful for the practical training of students and the transfer of technologies to surrounding communities," he added, while hoping that his country will welcome even more Chinese experts in the future.
In a letter addressed to Ethiopian students, Eyasu Abraha Alle, Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, praised the efforts of the Chinese instructors. According to him, the successful implementation of the agricultural cooperation project has had a major impact on Ethiopia's political, social and economic development and has caught the attention of senior officials from both countries, as well as media and international organizations.
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