Queen Mathilde: "You make a difference"
On 23 February 2016 the Belgian Queen visited Hasselt University. At the invitation of VLIR-UOS she got acquainted with the Flemish university cooperation for development. She spoke with students and researchers from Flanders and the South about their experience. The Queen was very impressed. "We need young academics like you”, she said.
What is university cooperation for development exactly and how does it make a difference? In a round-table discussion students and researchers presented their international research to the Queen. Topics were discussed such as sustainable agriculture in DR Congo, integrated water management in Bangladesh and ecotourism in Tanzania. Queen Mathilde showed a great interest in the inter-university projects and the personal motivation of the people involved.
Sustainable Development Goals
Sustainable development is a matter close to the Queen’s heart. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed Queen Mathilde as one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals Ambassadors. The fourth goal deals with education. "Quality education is a vector for sustainable development", the queen adds.
The visit at Hasselt University was a continuation of a previous meeting between VLIR-UOS and Queen Mathilde in November 2015. On that occasion Professor Seppe Deckers (KU Leuven), Professor Luc Duchateau (Ghent University) and Kristien Verbrugghen (VLIR-UOS) were invited at the Palace to present the university cooperation for development with Ethiopia. Queen Mathilde showed interest in getting acquainted with international students and researchers. She chose Hasselt University as a meeting place.
"We need young academics like you,” the Queen said during the conversation with the students and researchers. "Through academic leadership and creativity, you can make a difference for many people in society." She called on them to help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and she thanked them for their work: "You gave me a big present, to see your passion and enthusiasm.”
Malnutrition and child development
One of the presented projects deals with nutrition and health among Ethiopian children. It is part of the institutional cooperation between Jimma University and Ghent University, Hasselt University, the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven.
In his doctoral research Teklu Gemechu Abessa (Jimma University) explores the importance of play in the treatment of malnourished children. Apart from doing research, he trains nurses on child developmental assessment and stimulation.
For her master's thesis Loes Vander Missen left for Ethiopia to study the link between malnutrition and child development. Especially the contact with the children at a local hospital left a deep impression on her,
(Photo 1 and 2: UHasselt, photo 3: VLIR-UOS)