Cooperation with eSwatini National Commission for UNESCO

In 2019, Estonian and eSwatini National Commissions for UNESCO started cooperation with a focus on youth and education. The cooperation opened new perspectives, contributed to the work and strengthened the capacities of both national commissions. In addition, UNESCO ASPnet cooperation and school links between Estonia and eSwatini were initiated to encourage the exchange of experiences and best practices. The cooperation between Estonia and eSwatini was started with the help of German National Commission, who is active in several African countries, incl. eSwatini.

For additional information, please contact Madli Kumpas:

Cooperation activities 2019-2023

Please find below an overview of the main cooperation activities throughout the period of 2019-2023. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the cooperation activities of the national commissions were adapted to virtual environment as much as possible in 2020-2021.

Pilot project 2019

The pilot project of Estonian and eSwatini National Commissions for UNESCO on interregional youth volunteering and ASPnet was implemented in 2019. During the pilot project, a young Estonian volunteer was offered a possibility to participate in the work of both National Commissions, with a focus on eSwatini.

A three-months program consisted of three weeks introduction and preparation phase at the office of Estonian National Commission, followed by ten weeks volunteering period in eSwatini. The project supported the building of youth´s social skills and personality formation, the development of youth’s international and intercultural capacities, empathy and openness towards the world and other cultures. 

For the pilot project, an open call was announced in May and a fresh graduate of history and international relations studies from the University of Tartu, Laura Toomlaid, was selected for the program. After the preparation time in Estonia, Laura assisted local education programme officer Nicky Nelisiwe Ndwandwe in eSwatini National Commission, based in the Ministry of Education and Training, participated in education and UNESCO related meetings, organised together with eSwatini colleagues teacher trainings for ASPnet teachers, visited eSwatini ASPnet schools, helped Estonian and eSwatini schools to create contacts, etc. In parallel to Estonian young volunteer, there were two young German volunteers in eSwatini.

According to Laura, she learned a lot during her volunteering period, truly enjoyed her time there and valued highly the possibility to contribute to the cooperation of the National Commissions. As follow-up activities, Laura visited schools in Estonia to share her experiences from eSwatini, put together a small photo exhibition about eSwatini and wrote an article about eSwatini and her time there that was published in Estonian journal Horisont.

The pilot project was funded by the Estonian National Commission for UNESCO and the planning process for the next phases of the project has started.

Umhlanga ceremony in eSwatini. Photo: Laura Toomlaid

Photo exhibition and web gallery in 2020

In late spring 2020, a photo exhibition and a web gallery about eSwatini were launched in Estonia. The photos capture moments and impressions of eSwatini through the camera lens of Laura Toomlaid – the first Estonian volunteer in eSwatini. The exhibition consists of 9 photos (size A3) and introduction slide (size A2). The photos are accompanied by short texts (size A5) in Estonian and English on eSwatini and UNESCO related themes. The exhibition has circulated in several schools, universities and ministerial buildings. The web gallery of the exhibition can be found here.

eSwatini ASPnet teachers’ trainings in 2021

In eSwatini, as in most parts of the world, the restrictions related to COVID-19 were set in spring 2020 and included the closure of schools. The schools stayed closed for about a year and, along with the dropping numbers of COVID-19 cases, were again partly opened in March 2021 with rather high stakes on blended learning possibilities. However, due to continuing COVID-19 pandemic and political unrest in the country, the schools were closed and reopened throughout the year.

Within the cooperation, in 2021 a series of teacher trainings for eSwatini ASPnet was launched to tackle COVID-19 related issues in education. The trainings took place in hybrid format – eSwatini participants being mainly on the spot in Mbabane and Estonian colleagues connecting via video. The trainings consisted of presentations and workshops, participants shared their experiences, brainstormed ideas and came up with new initiatives. The first two workshops in March and June addressed the themes of physical education and moving in time of pandemic and blended learning. In November, a third teacher training took place that focused on mental health issues, social and emotional support strategies and stress management. The trainings received positive feedback from the participants and several stakeholders contributed to the success of the series: eSwatini and Estonian National Commissions and ASPnet teachers, eSwatini Ministry of Education and Training, Estonian volunteers Laura Toomlaid and Meelike Terasmaa, mental health experts from NGO Peaasi.

eSwatini ASPnet teachers’ training in April 2021. Photo: Nelisiwe Nicky Ndwandwe

Working visit of eSwatini National Commission’s colleague in August 2021

In the end of August 2021, Nelisiwe Nicky Ndwandwe, Education and Science Programme Officer of eSwatini National Commission, came to Estonia for a 10-day working visit. During the working visit several discussions and meetings regarding the cooperation and joint projects took place along with field trips to UNESCO designations and places related to UNESCO programs and networks in Estonia. From the discussions, new acquaintances and shared experiences, two core themes for future cooperation emerged: robotics and strengthening the capacities of eSwatini National Commission regarding the alignment of commission’s and project’s activities with the UN eSwatini strategy.

Farewell lunch of the working visit at Maarjamäe castle.

Volunteer Meelike in eSwatini in March-April 2022

In 2020, an open call was launched in Estonia for the position of a volunteer in eSwatini and the selection process was successful for Meelike Terasmaa. Meelike has a solid and multifaceted experience in the field of education. She has been a teacher of robotics and sports, coordinated and developed methodological materials and guidelines for teachers and educators, planned and executed seminars for educational counsellors in the field of special education. Due to COVID-19 pandemic and unrest in eSwatini, Meelike’s mission was postponed to March-April 2022.

In eSwatini, Meelike contributed to the first annual eSwatini ASPnet Teachers Conference and the launch of the ESD Projects Prize, conducted robotics workshop for 3 ASPnet schools, that piloted the robotics out-of-school program in eSwatini, visited schools and urged forward the school links project between Estonian and eSwatini ASPnet, met with organisations and experts related to UNESCO’s mandate in eSwatini, assisted the Education and Science Program Officer of eSwatini National Commission in various matters, etc.

Robotics out-of-school program in Mhlatane High School. Photo: Meelike Terasmaa

Follow-up on the cooperation and tripartite ASPnet project in 2023

In 2023, Estonian and eSwatini National Commissions did a follow-up on the activities carried out in 2022 and discussed the overall structure and functions of the National Comissions. In Autumn 2023, a tripartite project was carried out on living heritage and traditional games connected with nature for ASPnet schools in Estonia, eSwatini and Namibia.