Prime Example of Intercontinental Cooperation – Building a Faculty of Medicine in Namibia

How to Build a Faculty of Medicine in Namibia
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In detail

In terms of scope and scale, few university-level education export projects come close to the collaboration between the University of Oulu and the University of Namibia (UNAM), when the two institutions took on the task of establishing UNAM’s faculty of medicine.

Spanning five years, the capacity building project was spread across many stages and different sub-projects in the nation’s capital Windhoek and in Ovamboland. One of the core elements was an active teacher and student exchange program between the two countries, says Essi Varkki, specialist in respiratory disease and clinical lecturer.

“We created pedagogy programs for teachers and I personally took part in the teacher exchange as well. I taught about respiratory diseases and their treatment."

"However, the larger goal was to make sure that the new faculties of medicine across the continent would benefit from each other and their consortium would be further strengthened by our endeavor,” Varkki explains.

Another essential part of the work was a joint operation between the University of Oulu and the Oulu University of Applied Sciences called North-South-South Project. Roughly 40 teachers and students took part in the exchange programme, where people from Namibia came to train in Oulu and vice versa. This was a multiprofessional cooperation that proved to be very successful, Varkki says.

“The multiprofessional intensive training programmes were a definite highlight. The idea was to create a programme where all the participants have equal say. After all, everyone is there to learn,” Varkki says.

The key to success was the years-long cooperation between the University of Oulu and the Oulu University of Applied Sciences on multiprofessional health care education. According to Varkki, Oulu is the only place nationally where this cooperation is happening in this scale.

“It was therefore very easy for us to compile our programmes into a package we could then take to another country, in this case Namibia. And the initiative started with UNAM’s needs, we really tailored our programme to fit them,” Varkki says.

The project yielded many new opportunities also for education export, says Essi Varkki.

The multiprofessional intensive training programme in the North-South-South Project would be very easy to execute in other places as well.

“We have excellent relationships with our partners, not only in Namibia but in Kenya, Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia. We have contacts with the consortium and they have a keen interest in this type of multiprofessional training. No one treats patients in silos anymore and the whole education is geared toward encouraging collaboration and cooperation”, Varkki explains.

The project proved to be an eye-opening experience for everyone involved.

“There are so many ways to do the same thing, and the level of teaching in Namibia is excellent. My perspective really shifted during this project. Some may not have the same resources as others, but it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve amazing results,” Varkki enthuses.

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