SWAN means cooperation between Finnish and East-African Higher Education Institutions
In January 2012 teachers from several Finnish universities of applied sciences and the director of an NGO, Art in Tanzania were summoned into a meeting in Helsinki. In the Finnish universities of applied sciences providing Social Services education a clear need was seen for a network oriented towards enhancing institutional-level collaboration in Social Services, Social Sciences and Social Work Education between Finland and developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The North-South-South Higher Education Institute (HEI) Network Programme, funded by the Centre for International Mobility CIMO in Finland, enables cooperation between Higher Education Institutes in Finland and in the South. North-South-South cooperation is in line with and complements the Finnish Development Policy Programmes.
The SWAN network includes HEIs from Finland, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia.
In that first meeting it was decided that a network would be formed, the aim of which would be to promote collaborative activities between Finnish and East African higher education institutions and other actors in the target areas.
Similarly, in the South, three universities in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya had indicated a willingness and need for such cooperation. The Northern dimension of the network was formed by nine Finnish higher education institutions.
The large size of the network in the north enables the offering of a variety of field placements and theoretical study modules to incoming African exchange students.
Improved social work
It was later agreed that the new network would be called SWAN (Social Work and Social Sciences Africa Network). In December 2013 an application was submitted by SWAN Network to CIMO, and in late April 2014 a decision on financing was received, consisting of the total sum of 202 000 €.
The purpose of the SWAN programme is to enhance human capacity in all participating countries through interaction and international mobility. The aim is also to generate and disseminate knowledge and to create sustainable partnerships between higher education institutions in Finland and in the partner countries.
The objective is to reach for improved social work/social services higher education and societal impact of SWAN partner universities, promoting sustainable social development in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Finland through development of social work/social services practices also in the local communities around partner HEIs.
One of SWAN's aims is to promote sustainable social development.
The cooperation can include curriculum development, development of training and teaching methods and materials, development of a functioning network as a tool of cooperation between HEIs and other actors such as NGOs, municipal authorities and even central governments.
The tools, the main activities, that can be funded and implemented in the North-South-South cooperation are reciprocal teacher and student exchanges, intensive courses, network meetings and administrative visits.
Exchanging students and teachers
During the 1,5- year period the SWAN network will have implemented altogether twelve reciprocal student exchanges between South and North, in total 24 periods of mobility. The duration of student exchange periods is 3 months each. Ten reciprocal teacher exchanges, in total 20 periods of mobility will also be implemented.
The actual activities of SWAN started with an administrative visit in Kokkola, Finland, in August 2014 with participants from Maseno University, Moshi Cooperative University, Addis Ababa University and from the Finnish partner institutions.
The participants in mobility have had eye-opening experiences of social work, education, life and culture in the host countries.
One network meeting was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in late 2014 and another in May 2015 in Kisumu, Kenya. Also in May 2015 a one-week intensive course was implemented in Kenya, hosted by Maseno University.
The theme of the intensive week was Social Development in Family Welfare: Family work approaches and methodologies. The approximately 60 participants (mainly teachers and students) came from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya and Finland.
Co-operation with authorities and NGOs
The SWAN Network aims to collaborate not only with Universities, but has also made an agreement with Moshi Municipality, Community Development and Social Work Department, which deals with communities in regard to developmental issues, social issues and community well-being with special consideration of child rights, gender issues, women’s rights, family issues and vulnerable groups like elderly people, the disabled, orphans, street children and child labour.
SWAN aims to collaborate also with NGOs.
This guidance from and co-operation with municipal authorities will increase the potential, efficiency and opportunities of the project.
The SWAN Network has also cooperated all the way from the planning stage with Art in Tanzania (AIT), which is a non-governmental organization operating in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Finland, the mission of which is advancement of community development through volunteer and intern projects. The SWAN project aims to collaborate with other NGOs, too, who support welfare of children and families.
The feedback of the experiences and possibilities that the SWAN project has offered has been very positive. The participants in mobility have had eye-opening experiences of social work, education, life and culture in the host countries. A lot of learning has taken place both professionally and personally. The sharing of ideas and good practises, and seeing things from another point of view, has been inspiring and given new ideas. Our view of the world is now wider and we understand diversity better.
Text and photos: Eliisa Kursula
Senior Lecturer, International Coordinator
Lapland University of Applied Sciences Social Services, Health and Sport
The Finnish partner HEIs:
Centria University of Applied Sciences (Administrative and academic coordination of the network)
Lapland University of Applied Sciences (Academic coordination of the network)
Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences
Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences
Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Laurea University of Applied Sciences
Mikkeli University of Applied Sciences
Savonia University of Applied Science
Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences
The African partner HEIs:
Addis Ababa University, School of Social Work, Ethiopia
Moshi University College of Co-operative and Business Studies (later Moshi Co-operative University), Tanzania
Maseno University, School of Arts and Social Science, Kenya