Training the trainees – empowering African academic libraries

The University of Eastern Finland (UEF) started the Training of the trainers (TOT) project in 2011. The aim of this program funded and initiated by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (FORMIN), is defined as:

The intention of this programme – Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument (HEI ICI) – is to create a mechanism through which HEIs in Finland and developing countries can cooperate to produce institutional reforms. The projects are aimed to promote the strengthening of the developing country HEIs’ administrative, methodological and pedagogical capacity, as well as to support their own development plans.

In UEF, the project is managed by the Public Health Department and the Library is one of the partners in it. The second phase of the project commenced at the start of 2013. The African partner universities are still the same as in the first phase: Ain Shams University from Egypt (ASU), CUHAS from Tansania and UEAB from Kenya.

We had our midterm meeting of the project in November 2013 at the UEAB campus in Baraton, Kenya. The campus is situated in the middle of the Kenya’s flourishing nature and it is an excellent example of an ecological campus as it produces its own food in the fields around the campus that are also used in agricultural studies and surrounded by colorful African nature.

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We noticed that a leap towards the modernization of e-teaching and digital information service provision had happened in all the partner universities after the first phase of the project. Each institution had started to plan or even build a modern library premises with digital learning centers. Also the e-learning materials had been implemented both in the academic teaching as well as in the libraries’ information literacy tuition.

Thus from the point of view of the project’s aim, we were able to notice that the mission to “promote and support” each institution in their own goals had started to happen. The training of a couple of trainees into each university had begun to start to build up new possibilities and new ways for the academic teaching and research. In addition, the universities’ top management had been engaged in making the change to happen towards a modern, digital and networked way of conducting academic studies.

There is definitely the talent and motivation to the modernization of the African higher education although one must not underestimate the challenges. The aim is set in several countries to the year 2030 when they want to be an active part in the globalizing world. Education is seen as a crucial part in this process.

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The trainees will be attending the second training session at the UEF’s Kuopio campus in April 2014. We planned the following aims for this: to further develop the expertise of the trainees especially in integrating the modern information resources to the e-learning and courses to be implemented. The know-how and expertise of all the trainees had developed to a point that we also decided to start to conduct some research of the implications of the work done in the project to the library development in the universities involved.

 

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Jarmo Saarti, Library Director, University of Eastern Finland (UEF)

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