UKZN’s School of Education recently hosted two staff members from Liepaja University in Latvia: Professor Linda Pavītola, Faculty of Pedagogy and Social Work Dean, and Ms Sintija Leigute, International Relations Senior Specialist.
Their visit was part of the Erasmus+ mobility exchange project which included meetings, teaching, a public lecture, conferences, UKZN events and excursions.
UKZN’s existing Memorandum of Understanding with Liepaja University (LiepU) allows staff and students at both institutions to study, undertake collaborative research, and participate in student exchange programmes. The agreement was initiated by Professor Angela James of the School of Education.
Pavītola lectured students on the bachelor, master’s, and doctoral study programmes on the work of various communities and educational research perspectives in the context of Latvia; sharing her experience of teacher training and its challenges in LiepU and Latvia.
Leigute, who is the manager of this project, introduced students and staff to Liepāja University and its internationalisation strategy, Erasmus+ exchange opportunities in cooperation with UKZN and LiepU for full-time studies.
Speaking about the visit, Pavītola said, ‘This exchange allows us to get acquainted with the work and functions of UKZN, particularly their teacher education study process and research. This is beneficial because it allows us to improve professional experience and competencies to promote intercultural dialogue and understand cultural and educational issues.’
Leigute added: ‘In the context of the modernisation and internationalisation strategies of our two institutions, we are searching for long-term cooperation points in the fields of teacher education, joint scientific research, guest lecturing, international projects and all kinds of knowledge exchange. We plan to foster a stronger partnership for student and staff exchange and the creation of a summer school.’
For Pavītola, it was her first visit to South Africa, citing the experience as enlightening. ‘We came together and found the key points for discussion related to inclusive education, early childhood education, the importance of teacher competence development and joint workshops on current issues, especially in the field of community engagement, music therapy methods in education and teacher education. We can learn a lot from each other and share experiences that open our thinking and expand the boundaries of knowledge and understanding.’
Leigute found it interesting to learn about the environment of the surrounding universities and schools, understand from what environment and conditions potential South African students come from and the cultural differences of students. She commended the School of Education for its exchange programme, academic environment and activities.
She added: ‘We have a lot of common fields of study that we can jointly develop internationally to make education more inclusive and accessible to South African students as well. I am really excited about the openness and hospitality of people and the colourfulness of the culture, which never ceases to surprise.’
The partnership will be strengthened with the submission of a joint Erasmus+ mobility project in 2023 in order to give LiepU doctoral students and academic staff more opportunities to visit regularly and cooperate more closely with various educational issues, as well as expand other fields of study for mutual international experience and expertise.
*This mobility is linked to the mutual Memorandum of Understanding, Erasmus+ partnership agreement and international Erasmus+ mobility exchange project KA107 of students and staff between programme and partner countries (No. 2020-1-LV01-KA107-077408) which has been implemented between the School of Education, UKZN, and Liepaja University (LiepU).