Delft, The Netherlands, 24 Apr 2015

Closing ceremony 2015: 149 water professionals receive their MSc diploma

On 23 April 2015, 149 UNESCO-IHE water professionals from 39 different countries received their MSc diploma as part of the closing ceremony of the academic period 2013-2015. The graduates are now part of the UNESCO-IHE alumni community of 15,000 water professionals.

Professional network

Social Cultural Officer Sylvia van Opdorp-Stijlen addressed the graduates who were soon to be alumni. She advised to lean on the alumni network as they will remain part of the UNESCO-IHE family. In her speech, Sylvia shared why she finds UNESCO-IHE so special "every single culture is present under one rooftop".

Officer-in-charge and Vice-Rector Professor Stefan Uhlenbrook addresses the new graduates. They have sacrificed a lot by leaving family and friends behind to pursue the common goal of improving their knowledge and academic skills to assume better and higher positions, but also positions with higher responsibility in their home countries.

"Besides the knowledge, cognitive competencies you gained and the academic skills you developed, I am confident that you will agree that one of the most valuable and tangible aspects of your experience here at UNESCO-IHE is the network of professional colleagues that you have built up – which includes both fellow professionals as well as staff of this Institute" says Stefan Uhlenbrook.

The programme of the day continued with an address by Fritz Holtzwarth, Chair of the UNESCO-IHE Governing Board. He welcomed the graduates as new water ambassadors. Fritz Holtzwarth: "This diploma gives you a solid basis to improve the livelihood of people. Water is an interesting medium, it always leads to action as in most cases there is either too much or too less".

Laws of nature

Every year UNESCO-IHE awards an honorary fellowship to a person who have made great contributions to the work of the Institute or the wider context of UNESCO-IHE's mission. This year, the fellowship was awarded to Professor George Ekama from South Africa for his work in the field of wastewater treatment.

Damir Brdadovic, Professor of Sanitary Engineering at UNESCO-IHE handed the award to Professor Ekama and praised him for his holistic view of wastewater systems, which allowed him to master the knowledge and understanding of wastewater treatment. Professor Brdanovic: "your enthusiasm, great writing and didactic skills were one of the main reasons why the new online course on Biological Wastewater Treatment of UNESCO-IHE became a great success. The accompanying textbook is the best seller of IWA Publishing".

Professor Ekama is very honoured to become a fellow and to be associated with UNESCO-IHE in this way. He takes the audience through developments of wastewater treatment plants, where he stresses that concepts of the models are based on fundamentals, the laws of nature, apply to most municipal wastewaters, and industrial wastewater also for that matter. They therefore supersede all the empirical design procedures found in various books or in the minds of aging practising engineers.

"For a new generation of young scientists and engineers, like yourselves, entering the wastewater treatment profession, the quantity, complexity and diversity of these new developments can be overwhelming, particularly in developing countries where access is not readily available to advanced level tertiary education courses in wastewater treatment.  However, upon completion of this growing new curriculum, the modern approach of modelling and simulation to wastewater treatment plant design and operation can be embraced with deeper insight, advanced knowledge and greater confidence and competence".

"Remember that in all stages of life - the path to a new understanding always starts in confusion" concludes Professor Ekama.

Delft blue

In his speech, Rotary Host Area Coordinator for the UNESCO-IHE Scholarship Programme, Henk Jaap Kloosterman, expresses his gratitude for the fruitful partnership between Rotary International and UNESCO-IHE. Mr. Kloosterman called Professor Uhlenbrook on stage and presented a specially designed 'Delft Blue' tile to commemorate the success of the partnership. Since 2011, Rotary has sponsored more than 50 students in the field of water and sanitation.

Cultural diversity

Before the graduation ceremony started, student representatives Caroline Noor Huguenin from Costa Rica and Olivier Tuyishimire from Rwanda gave a passionate speech about UNESCO-IHE experiences. They took the audience through their study journey, with many new social and cultural experiences like riding a bike and eating herring, but also being able to learn in such a cultural diverse environment. "We now have the tools to help to further develop our countries and to tackle the diverse water issues we face every day" says Olivier Tuyishimire.