Educating sanitation professionals: moving from STEM to specialist training in higher education in Malawi
Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires effective changes in multiple sectors including education, economics, and health. Malawi faces challenges in attaining the SDGs in general, and specifically in the sanitation sector. This paper aims to describe the existing landscape within public universities in Malawi to build a framework for training a cadre of locally trained experts. This is achieved by reviewing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programmes and assessing the extent of inclusion of sanitation education. The historical compartmentalization of academic programmes has resulted in few programmes to build on. Deliberate investment is needed to build from the current STEM higher education landscape to an effective framework for training sanitation experts, especially female experts. For low-income countries such as Malawi, a cadre of ~17,600 locally trained sanitation experts may be needed, for which the current higher education landscape is not sufficient. Using the Centre of Excellence in Water and Sanitation at Mzuzu University in Malawi as a case study, this paper provides a model of sanitation education in low-income countries that: 1) provides an effective complementary contribution to delivering sanitation education; 2) links to overall SDGs, national policy, university goals, and localized needs; and 3) engages students, faculty, and communities in local research.