The objective of this round table is to inform the University of Toronto community, Canadians, and scholars and the public elsewhere, of the destruction of Ethiopia’s contemporary system of higher education and its ancient cultural heritage. The devastation has come about as a consequence of the two-year-old war. Following the start of the engagement on 4 November 2020, all levels of education have been interrupted while four universities were closed across the Tigray region. On 13 September 2022, the Business Campus of Mekelle University was bombed.
The round table is an opportunity to discuss the role of Ethiopian universities outside Tigray and Memoranda of Understandings between Ethiopian universities (Addis Ababa and Mekelle Universities) and UofT. Equally important, this round table is designed to create a space for the University of Toronto, Canadian academic institutions as a whole, and the Canadian government to explore ways to alleviate this situation and take necessary action to restore and foster peace in the region.
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Moderator: Dr. Patrick Wight is a lecturer in International Development and African Studies at McGill University in Montreal. He is also the executive editor at Ethiopia Insight. Dr. Wight spent eighteen months conducting research in Ethiopia from 2014 to 2019 for his dissertation on the South Sudan peace process.
- Dr. Hagos Abrha, Head of the Yared Center for Old Ethiopic Studies (Ge’ez language) at Mekelle University
- Dr. Hagos Abrha has been teaching linguistics and related courses in Mekelle University for more than 10 years. After receiving his Ph.D. in Gǝʿǝz Philology from Addis Ababa University, he founded the St. Yared Center for Ethiopian Philology and Manuscript Studies (SYCEPMS) at Mekelle University in 2015 and was director of the Center in the university until 2019. He has since then been a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hamburg (Germany), in the Cluster of Excellence, working on the “Non-codex Manuscripts of Tigray: Archiving and Usage.” Since the beginning of the war in Tigray, he has been committed to documenting damage to the cultural heritage of the region.
- Mr. Goitom Tegegn Admasu, Head of the International Office at Mekelle University
- Goitom Tegegn Admasu is an employee of Mekelle university who is currently a lecturer, an International officer, and a programme coordinator at Thomas More University of Applied Sciences in Belgium. He has taught courses focusing on diversity accommodation, curriculum, intercultural communication, and instructional technology. He has established and led the international office of Mekelle University in Ethiopia from 2014 – 2021. He managed international partnerships, staff and student mobilities, and recruitment of international students. Goitom firmly believes that higher education efforts should put the maximization of opportunities for students at the core of their mission. His training and practice in internationalization have given him a broader network of partners from all corners of the globe. At Thomas More University, he coordinates the Global Minds Project and an interdisciplinary and intercultural COIL course in collaboration with partners from the Global South. Goitom has a Master of Education degree in Multicultural and Multilingual Education and is a certified expert in the Management of Internationalization. Goitom has witnessed the starting of the devastating war on Tigray which broke out when he was in Mekelle, and has provided his testimony and situational update of Tigray on various occasions, with main focus on the effect of the war on Universities in Tigray!
- Professor Kindeya Gebrehiwot, Former President of Mekelle University with whom Provost Regehr signed a Memorandum of Understanding at Mekelle University in 2018
- Professor Kindeya Gebrehiwot is a senior cabinet member of the Government of Tigray and representative of the Tigray External Affairs Office. He was the third President of Mekelle University (2013-2020), and is a professor there at the College of Dryland Agriculture and Natural resources. He received his B.Sc. in Forestry from Alemaya University in Ethiopia, his M.Sc. in Environmental Forestry from the University of Wales, UK, and his Ph.D. in Forest Sciences and Ecology at the University of Göttingen, Germany. Before assuming his presidency at Mekelle University, he served as a department head, as Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies, and aa Academic Vice-President. He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of Dry Lands and the Ethiopian Journal of Natural Resources. He has supervised many MSc and PhD students, has more than 64 publications in peer-reviewed journals, and has been recognized internationally for his contributions towards advancing research and education, and for his leadership skills. In 2004, he received the Development Cooperation Prize (an international award for researchers), and in 2015 the African Leadership Award for Educational Leaders. Prof. Kindeya is a member of the Rural Development Forestry Network in the UK, and Forests, Trees and People Network in Sweden, among others. He serves as a board chairman and member of various associations, societies and academies.
- Professor Mitiku Haile, Founding Father of Mekelle University
- Laureate Mitiku Haile is the recipient of the GCHERA 21 World Agriculture Prize and Professor of Soil Science and Sustainable Land Management at Mekelle University. He obtained his Diploma in Environmental Science (HSIU), BSc in Plant Sciences and MSc in Agronomy (AAU) and PhD in Soil Science (Ghent University, Belgium). He served Haromaya University as Associate Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and as Academic Vice President. As the Dean of the newly established College of Dryland Agriculture and Natural Resources in Mekelle, he initiated the transformation of the College into Mekelle University College and eventually to Mekelle University. He served as the founder and first President of Mekelle University. He taught courses at the BSc, MSc and PhD levels. In his research endeavors he has published several articles in peer reviewed journals. He was instrumental in designing and implementing several international partnerships for capacity building in teaching, research and community engagement. He also served as the Deputy Permanent Delegate of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to UNESCO.He is awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Bahir Dar University.
- Emeritus Professor Jan Nyssen of the Department of Geography, University of Ghent
- Jan Nyssen works since 2007 at the Department of Geography, and in 2014 he became full professor. He teaches courses on Geomorphology, Hydrology, Physical Environment and Development, Microclimatology, and Regional Geomorphology at the Geography and Physical Land Resources programmes. His research (mainly in Ethiopia) aims to contribute to the identification and quantification of changes in the coupled system "humans-environment" - with focus on slope processes, hydrogeomorphology, land degradation and resilience.
- Professor Richard Reid, Department of History, Oxford University
- Richard Reid is Professor of African History in the Faculty of History and a Fellow of St Cross College at the University of Oxford. His work has focused particularly on the history of political culture, historical consciousness, warfare and militarism in Africa, notably eastern and northeast Africa, including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania. He is the author of a number of books, including A History of Modern Uganda (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and Warfare in African History (Cambridge University Press, 2012), while a revised third edition of his History of Modern Africa: from 1800 to the present (Wiley) appeared in 2019. A former editor of the Journal of African History, he has written a first-hand account of the social, political, and cultural impact of conflict in the Horn, Shallow Graves: a memoir of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war (Hurst, 2020).
- Professor Wolbert Smidt, Adjunct Professor in Ethnohistory at Mekelle University and a Senior Research Fellow at Jena University
- Professor Wolbert Smidt is an Adjunct Professor in Ethnohistory at Mekelle University and a Senior Research Fellow at Jena University. After more than a decade of research and teaching at the Hiob Ludolf Centre of Ethiopian Studies of Hamburg University in Germany and working as an Assistant Editor of the 5-volume Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, and extended field research seasons in Tigray and Addis Abeba, he joined Mekelle University, first as an Associate Professor in Ethnohistory in the Department of History and Cultural Studies in 2010, later as an adjunct member, and was promoted to Full Professor as an adjunct member of the Department of Anthropology in 2019. As a senior research fellow at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany, he has carried out field research on cultural and historical traditions in Tigray and other regions of the Horn of Africa, such as in the Afar, Oromiyaa, SNNPR and Amhara regional states and the neighboring state of Djibouti, and currently supports partnership programmes for academics from Mekelle University affected by the war, and works on the role of cultural heritage in war and peace.
- Professor Alexie Tcheuyap, Associate Vice-President and Vice-Provost, International Student Experience
- Professor Alexie Tcheuyap is Associate Vice-President and Vice-Provost, International Student Experience, at the University of Toronto, where he is Professor of French and Postcolonial Studies. His research focuses on literature, cinema and media in Africa. He is currently working on the representations of Boko Haram in media and completing a manuscript on African documentary cinema. Alexie Tcheuyap has published several books in his fields of interest and is a member of the Royal Society of Canada.