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 opens new perspectives, contributes to the work and strengthens the capacities of both national commissions. In addition, UNESCO ASPnet cooperation and school links between Estonia and eSwatini are 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.
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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.
Cooperation activities 2020-2022
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the cooperation activities of the national commissions were adapted to virtual environment as much as possible. Plans that required physical presence in eSwatini were postponed to 2022.
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.
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. To lend the exhibition in physical form, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The web gallery of the exhibition can be found here.
eSwatini ASPnet teachers’ trainings in 2021
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.
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.
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.
Photos and videos of Meelike’s activities in eSwatini during her mission can be found on Estonian National Commission’s Facebook page.