Eritrea – a school of diplomacy for Ikali Karvinen

Ikali Karvinen.
”I have learned in depth about development cooperation and especially about how we can promote a sustainable change in developing countries,” says Ikali Karvinen. Photo: Saara Mansikkamäki

Ikali Karvinen leads the activities of Finn Church Aid in Eritrea as Education Specialist.

Classes are big, education materials are scarce, and teaching is not held in high esteem in Eritrea. Despite numerous challenges, Eritrean teachers are still interested in developing teaching methods, says Ikali Karvinen.

Karvinen has been leading FCA teacher-training projects in Eritrea since the beginning of 2017.

”On an ordinary day, I guide teachers and colleagues, support the carrying out of research, and plan activities for higher-education institutions to enhance the competence of the personnel,” explains Karvinen.

The political environment in Eritrea is challenging, and many are initially suspicious of foreign operators. Building trust is important.

In addition to scarcity of water and electricity, poor data-communication connections make days very different from those in Finland. According to Karvinen, several things require many times the amount of time.

”My colleague and I laugh at not being able to open a single news report online in up to four days – so life is hard for news addicts!”

From nurse to Education Specialist

Karvinen describes his career path as atypical. After graduating as a nurse, he supplemented his studies in nursing science, and ended up in Kenya to collect research data for his PhD thesis. He earned his PhD in Public Health in 2009.

”Eritrea has been a school of diplomacy for me. I have met people who, despite personal and their home country’s difficulties, look into the future with confidence and hope,” says Karvinen.

The results of the work are not seen instantly, not even in a year or two. With his work, Karvinen hopes to promote cooperation between teachers and different stakeholders, and evidence-based education.

”We believe that the teachers we are working with are the forerunners of a new kind of teachership. They will train future teachers with new methods.”

Text: Minna Elo