In the pursuit of sustainable development, small island states face unique challenges due to their limited size and resources. Higher education plays a crucial role in overcoming these challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Local universities are vital to implementing the SDGs in small island states, leveraging their deep understanding of local contexts and needs. The Sustainable Island Solutions through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (SISSTEM) programme embodies this vision. This joint initiative by the Government of Aruba (GoA) and the University of Aruba (UA) aims to establish a new SISSTEM Faculty at the university, focusing on STEM disciplines.

Addressing the need for suitable infrastructure, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was selected as the implementing partner for the faculty’s expansion and furnishing. Funded entirely by the European Union (EU) with a contribution of 7,300,000 EUR, the project facilitated the renovation of the Maria Convent Historic Building in Oranjestad, Aruba. In partnership with the Aruba Monuments Bureau (MB), the UNDP has successfully transformed this historic building into a cutting-edge educational facility.

Now home to the UA’s SISSTEM programme, the renovated Maria Convent enhances the university's capacity with modern amenities including multifunctional classrooms, study rooms, office spaces, a well-equipped library, an impressive auditorium, a computer lab, and server rooms.

The SISSTEM programme is poised to significantly boost the number of experts and skilled professionals dedicated to innovative, sustainable development in Aruba, the Caribbean, and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS). This initiative not only creates opportunities for local and regional students to pursue STEM careers close to home but also enhances the human resource capacity and innovation potential of these regions, contributing to their sustainable development and economic diversification. Through the SISSTEM programme, Aruba reaffirms its commitment to the global agenda for sustainable development, supported by the UNDP.

Project Team Members

Gladys Gbegnedji – Project Manager

Thinley Penjore – Supervision Engineer

Vidmara Geerman – Project Assistant

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