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Development cooperation


Niilo Mäki Institute has an extensive experience of building local capacities in education sector (in particular special education) through training programmes in Africa.  Institute has provided training for educators in neuropsychology and learning difficulties and developed assessment methods and interventions together with education experts in partner countries. Hon Dr Onerva Mäki has been the initiator of Institute´s development cooperation work and pioneered the training programmes and partnerships with African education institutions. Niilo Mäki Institute´s core philosophy has been to provide the latest evidence based knowledge to our partners and to support the development of their special education curricula. In 2008 Onerva Mäki was awarded the prestigious Jan Amos Comenius Medal for her lifelong work and contribution in developing special education.

Institute´s first development cooperation projects in the early 1990s focused on the training of African special education teacher trainers in the area of clinical child neuropsychology.  The first pool of trainers came from Kenya, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Altogether four diploma training courses were organized. Many of the programme graduates now work as lecturers in higher education institutions, or consultants and special advisors in the ministries.

Photo from 1997.

Niilo Mäki Institute's expertise was also utilized in initiating a bilateral Education Sector Support Programme (ESSP) between Finland and Zambia. Hon Dr Onerva Mäki was a consultant in developing a special education teacher training programme in the ESSP. During the ESSPIII two test instruments were developed in Zambia – Basic Skills Assessment Tools (Ketonen & Mulenga, 2002) which is a tool to screen reading and writing skills among grade 1-2 pupils in local languages and Basic Numerical and Calculation Abilities (Räsänen & Chilala, 2003) which is a tool to screen pupils in grades 1-4 in difficulties in basic numeracy. These instruments are used e.g. by the University of Zambia Educational Psychology, Sociology and Special Education Department and Zambia Institute of Special Education in their student practicals.

The subsequent development cooperation projects concentrated on supporting the established assessment centers and staff development especially in Kenya and Zambia. The centers offer assessment and rehabilitation services for the children with special needs and support their schooling. The projects have been organized by the financial support from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland development cooperation funds.