Keep in touch with the Dutch

What do you call a student taking an Orange Knowledge Programme course or training? Apart from inspired and talented that is? A pre-alumnus! The highlights of the Annual report Orange Knowledge Programme 2018 regarding Alumni events & refresher courses.
Posted by Mike Cooper

This article is part of a series of stories covering the highlights of the annual report of the Orange Knowledge Programme for 2018.

Read the other articles in the series:

Once students have finished their courses or training they are ready for the next phase of putting that knowledge and skills to excellent use in their home countries. However, an added bonus for these professionals, the Dutch stakeholders and embassies in the partner countries is the lifelong links to the Netherlands. These ties are also tangible proof of the sustainability and reciprocity achieved when funding international education initiatives as part of the Dutch government's development policy.

Important stakeholders

Alumni who stay connected to their fellow students and to the Netherlands can create excellent opportunities now and in future for Dutch businesses and the Dutch knowledge economy. We actively support activities that expand and strengthen the Holland Alumni network worldwide. This includes alumni from the Orange Knowledge Programme, but also from previous programmes we managed. So we support our alumni twofold: by encouraging them to form and join official alumni associations, and by offering refresher courses.

“We always want to keep in touch with alumni,” says Vicky Weits, responsible for Orange Knowledge alumni. "We see them as important stakeholders because they know what the Netherlands has to offer. We also encourage Orange Knowledge institutional collaboration projects to link up with our alumni.” She adds that alumni are ambassadors for the Netherlands and the Orange Knowledge Programme. “More than that, many become senior influencers in their societies, governments or corporations.”

In 2018, 3 alumni events were organised with Orange Knowledge funding. In Colombia, the Dutch Embassy used the trade mission in November 2018 as an opportunity to host an alumni event in the form of a college tour with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, with the participation of Holland alumni and students of the National University. There were interviews with Colombian alumni who benefited from improved access to and capacity of Colombian universities after the implementation of one of the predecessors of the Orange Knowledge Programme (NPT). These alumni from disadvantaged populations in Colombia now directly contribute to the development of their regions and even to the implementation of the peace agreements at a national level.

Also in November, we organised the Day of the International Student in Delft in the Netherlands, a pre-alumni event. “We invited around 200 Orange Knowledge students to join us for over food (the theme of 2018, ed.) to get to know each other and to already be informed about the Holland Alumni network,” Vicky adds. A big success!

November turned out to be a busy month, as we also organised a Holland Alumni Conference in Lebanon. The purpose of this conference was to connect Lebanese Holland Alumni and inform them on how to start a Holland Alumni Association. Discussions on employability and career development formed a second part of the conference.

Skills in the field

Orange Knowledge alumni continually use the skills and knowledge in the field. Juma Mdeke for example gained a master’s degree in Land and Water Development for Food Security at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education. Juma has a group of ‘champion farmers’ in Tanzania with whom he regularly keeps in touch. “Due in part to the knowledge about irrigation which I gained in the Netherlands, their production has increased from 5-7 tonnes of rice per hectare, to 10 tonnes. The working methods here are still very different compared to yours, of course,” he adds.

Keymisrak Berhanu is a second generation Holland Alumnus – her father also went to International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) – and she’s proud of it. She completed her Master’s in Development Studies in The Hague. “As a young Ethiopian woman, my world opened up when I came to the Netherlands. My view was actually quite narrow as I had never been outside of Ethiopia. Now, I was not only confronted with the open-minded, critical and free-thinking culture of the Dutch, but also with the many different (African) cultures in class. It enriched me and made me realise that above all I’m a world citizen, with friends on almost every continent. Open-minded people are needed, skilled to bridge cultural gaps to reach for the mutual goal we have: to create a better world in which we leave no one behind.”

“As a young Ethiopian woman, my world opened up when I came to the Netherlands”

- Keymisrak Berhanu from Ethiopia, alumnus Development Studies at ISS.

Two new alumni associations were funded in 2018. Also, a number of alumni activities were organised with the help of local Nuffic Neso offices in India, Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam. We also created country communities online for the full-programme countries. Compact Plus and Compact programme countries will be provided with online communities in 2019 or 2020.

“Living alone in the Netherlands, away from home, served for me as a form of transition into an independent woman,” says Emmanualla Kwamee an alumnus from Ghana who read a Master of Arts in Development Studies (Human Rights, Gender and Conflict) which she was awarded in 2018.

She explains the added skills learned during her stay: “This meant that I started making my own decisions, I started doing things alone without permission, I didn't need constant validation and all that, in essence, has boosted my confidence level. Also, the Netherlands is the place I learnt how to bike!” Emmanuella has regular contact with Orange Knowledge Programme alumni in both Ghana and other parts of the world. “Presently, we share job vacancies and other opportunities among ourselves.”

She adds that she misses the calmness and orderliness of the Netherlands, and the reliable transportation system. She does not miss what she very politely calls “the unpredictable weather pattern”. Emmanuella hopes to be employed in an organisation that works towards eliminating gender-based violence and addressing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people.

“It is great to see the commitment the alumni feel towards the Netherlands, and the way the network works for them!”

- Johanna van Nieuwenhuizen, Team Lead Programme Management, Nuffic Global Development

Alumni influencer gap

In 2018, we supported a total of 21 refresher courses in 20 different countries with an average of 20 participants. About 80% of the events were focussed on two main priority themes: Food and Nutrition Security, and Water. “I think we should look at encouraging more refresher courses covering Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights as well as Security and the rule of law in future,” explains Johanna van Nieuwenhuizen, managing the team that is in charge of refresher courses.

Johanna continues: “Refresher courses are not only for alumni”, explaining that only 60% of students enrolled must be alumni. “An interesting learning for us is that we discovered that alumni also see refresher courses as an important networking event. In the rules of the Orange Knowledge Programme we had included an eligibility restriction saying that alumni must have completed their studies not longer than five years ago. We received quite a lot of complaints in 2018 about that. The effect was to cut off the more senior alumni and influencers from the recent students. This created an undesirable knowledge transfer gap and a network gap. We are changing those rules, thanks to the feedback. It is great to see the commitment the alumni feel towards the Netherlands, and the way the network works for them!”

This article is part of a series of stories covering the highlights of the annual report of the Orange Knowledge Programme for 2018.

Read the other articles in the series: