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CARTA has adapted a general approach to enhance sustainability of its interventions (Joint Advanced Seminars -JASes; Supervisors’ Workshop -SW; Graduate Workshop – GW; and the Academic, Professional and Administrative Staff Seminars -APAS) through respective Training of Trainers (ToT). The series of ToTs kicked off in June 2022 following a review of its interventions and development of ToT programs that had been in progress since 2021.  

On August 1-5, 2022, CARTA held the supervisors’ ToT in collaboration with the Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS), Malawi. A total of 54 participants attended the ToT; 27 under the program and 27 brought in by the University of Malawi (UNIMA) Consortium from its affiliate universities. The participants included university professors, associate professors and senior lecturers selected from the vice chancellors’ office, and heads of institutions of CARTA partner institutions.

During the opening ceremony, Prof. Sharon Fonn (University of the Witwatersrand and CARTA Co-Director) highlighted the need and benefit of partner institutions’ mainstreaming CARTA interventions so as to change the narrative of how research is conducted in Africa. She noted that when conducting research, it is important to understand the what (the current situation), why (reasons for the current situation) and how (best approaches to change the situation). 

Over the years, CARTA has regularly convened PhD supervisors from its eight African partner universities to enhance their supervisory skills, and exchange approaches in supervision. The intervention’s importance has been acknowledged over time thus the need to mainstream the approach and benefit more supervisors across the institutions. 

Because a number of participants had not attended a supervisors’ workshop before, the participants were given an overview of CARTA’s andragogical approaches and its SW course. Presentations on the content of the course, as well as other sessions, generated informative discussions. One area of interest was on ethical dilemmas in supervision. To encourage participation and find practical solutions to the issue, the facilitators gave the team the opportunity to explore and suggest possible solutions and best practices to consider for adoption.  

In unpacking the training methodologies used in CARTA for experiential learning, participants benefited from a video demonstration on CARTA approaches in training; presentations by various facilitators; role play; generating ideas using world cafe; the ‘but why’ approach in exploring scientific integrity; and group work on quality assurance in PhD supervision. Included in each session was a participatory discussion on issues that were raised in relation to learning experience, and best practices to address them. 

Teams took time to draw plans to cascade the training in their universities using a common template provided to them. The ideas were presented using the ‘marketplace of ideas’ approach with the aim of generating constructive feedback from the participants on each of the institution’s plans. At the end, a discussion emerged on how best to document the process – possibly a common online platform to continuously discuss progress, challenges, new approaches and so on, in changing PhD supervision in Africa.

The supervisors’ ToT follows a successful APAS ToT held at the Makerere University School of Public Health, Uganda from June 6 to 10, 2022. With the SW ToT completed, CARTA is looking to follow up on the institutionalization plans drawn and how these interventions will be implemented, funding on the same, and the impact generated towards changing the research ecosystem at the institutions. 

The remaining ToTs for JASes and GW are slated for August 29 to September 2, and November 28 November to December 3 respectively. Ultimately, CARTA hopes to have a team (for each intervention) that will train various personnel at their own institutions.

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