At a seminar, on the Eritrea-Finland Higher Education Cooperation held on March 12, 2018 at Asmara Palace Hotel, I met Mr. Samu Seitttsalo, director for Finnish International Agency for Education (EDUFI). The bilateral cooperation of the two states is said to have been improving the quality of education in higher institutions in Eritrea. The projects in the Eritrean colleges have been assessed as fruitful, and we hear more from the director.
- -Mr. Samu tell us a little about yourself.
I am a director of Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI). I work especially with the international association of education in Finland. EDUFI is a government agency, and we are working together with the Ministry of Education and implementing programs on behalf of the Ministry. I have been working with the agency for 23 years having different roles inside the organization.
- -What exactly does EDUFI do and what can it offer to Eritrean students?
EDUFI is a national agency of education. We are developing education in Finland, primary education and tertiary education, then we are enhancing the international session of education. So we are running different kinds of programs, funding institutional cooperation university to universities or, in some cases, we give scholarship to individuals. We have a scholarships plan for Eritrean PHD students in the future. We will most likely be funding these students’ activities. As part of the European Union Erasmus Plus program, there is also a possibility for Masters Students to apply for scholarship but these cooperation projects must always between the institutions.
- -Brief me about the projects?
Well, the biggest program we are running with the European Union is the Erasmus Plus program in Finland with 26 thousand participants annually. The total budget for internationalization activities is around 55 million Euros and out of this total amount we are now channeling 2.6 million Euros to cooperation with Eritrean Higher Education Institutions. The six projects have not only improved facilities and teacher capacities, they have also brought together international peers to learn and seamlessly work together for common good. All around, there has been exposure to diverse experiences and new ways of doing and seeing things.
- -What do you think made the Eritrean-Finland Educational Cooperation successful?
The cooperation has been supported and coordinated in close collaboration with EDUFI and National Commission for Higher Education (NCHE) in Eritrea now called National Higher Education and Research Institute (NHERI), the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of both countries, as well as the Ministries for Education. There has been regular coordination meetings and visits to both countries. The cooperation has proven to be fruitful and led to the initiation of the projects.
But, a special thanks goes to Mr. Pekka Haavisto, Member of the Parliament, who basically initiated the cooperation of the two states. Today’s achievements over the projects will help continuous development work-and, hopefully, pave the way for more and deeper international collaboration to support Eritrean higher education development further.
- -How do you see Eritrea’s Higher Education progress compared other nations that are EDUFI partners?
I think there has been a lot of good progress in Eritrea’s higher education. Of course, there is still much left to do for capacity building, teaching and some of the resources. I hope with the bilateral cooperation so far done we will see more of the expectations met.
- -What do you think of the potential of Eritrean students?
I believe the quality of Eritrean students is high. What we have seen from some of the applications we have received in our universities is that the motivation of Eritrean students is very high. They want to achieve good results, and they have the potential to compete with other students who try getting places for studies.
- -Your impressions Eritrea or its people…
Though this is my first visit to Eritrea, I’m impressed with the capital city, it is well kept. It has more to offer to foreign nationals with its good climatic conditions and its historical beauty. Beside this, I am very excited with the people; they are friendly, open-minded and welcoming people. After all, I can say the state is good and secure to visit.
- -What should we expect from EDUFI regarding the bilateral cooperation?
The ELFA project will continue, so they will have funding from 2018 to 2020. With the other four projects we are hoping that the cooperation will continue and from our side we will try to channel some of the other means of funding to continue these projects.
- -Final remarks…
I really hope that the cooperation between Eritrea and Finland continues so that both states can learn from each other. In fact this cooperation has really been an eye opening experience for both of the nations and also from the point of view of how people are committed to common goals and how we can create something better for the future.
- -Thank you for your time, Mr. Samu.