In February 2017, a group of 24 students from Namibia arrived in the city of Rauma – on Finland's west coast – to study towards a teaching degree at the University of Turku. The teachers have now successfully graduated from the programme.
"This three-year Bachelor's Degree in Teacher Education was tailor-made by the University of Turku and is the first of its kind in Finland," says Finland University Executive Vice President Pasi Kaskinen, who helped to facilitate co-operation between the different parties involved in the programme.
"Creating this first-of-a-kind three-year programme in English for a group from a very different background – compared to a group of Finnish pedagogy students – gave us a deeper understanding of what's really at the core of teacher education," he says.
Help from all sides
The teachers spent two years at the University of Turku's campus in Rauma, followed by a year of practical training in Namibian schools. Both the Embassy of Namibia in Helsinki and the Finnish-Namibian Society supported the group through the duration of their studies.
"This programme wouldn't have been possible without the help of Ambassador Bonny Haufiku," says Kaskinen. "We also owe a big thank you to the staff at the University of Turku's campus in Rauma, and to the many families there who welcomed the students and helped them feel at home in Finland."
The teachers were awarded their degrees in a graduation ceremony held in Namibia's capital Windhoek. Two of the Finnish families who supported the students flew out for the event, which was also attended by the Finnish Ambassador to Namibia, Pirkko-Liisa Kyöstilä. She spoke about how the programme deepens the 150-year-old ties between Finland and Namibia.
Reaching more African students
In a sign of more co-operation to come, the University of Turku now has a local co-ordinator in Namibia and has set up an office on the University of Namibia's campus. Future initiatives include a tech lab for remote-learning facilities to reach students across Namibia and the rest of the vast Southern Africa region.
"The University of Turku's local presence in Namibia is partly about attracting students to come and study in Finland, but we're also looking at using some exciting technology to bring remote remote-learning courses to people across the local region," says Kaskinen. "As Finland University is a founding member of this tech lab, all our owner universities will have access to this opportunity."
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