The Nordic Africa Institute

The National Union of University Students in Finland (SYL)


SYL was founded in 1921 so that Finnish students could participated in the international meetings of national student unions. After the World War II, SYL wanted to participate in development cooperation and founded KYST, International Student Aid of Finland. When the World University Service (WUS) was founded in 1952 SYL re-organised the KYST into a Finish branch of WUS, also known as the FINWUS. The main attention of WUS, however, was directed towards Asian and African students and the improving of their situation. The Finnish students organised seminars and were looking for ways to develop aid projects. The very first seminar was about the Asian and African students' problems.
After FINWUS, SYL still wanted to continue and develop their work. Therefore another organisation, YKA (Students' International Assistance), was founded in 1961. It should be noted that SYL was only one of the member organizations of the YKA. SYL adopted a new policy where students could pay a small voluntary fee to development co-operation together with their student's union membership fee. Nickey Iyambo came to Finland in 1964 with help of YKA.
In 1968 Students' International Assistance was closed down. SYL started to take care of YKA's obligations. Nickey Iyambo fro Namibia became a SYL scholarship holder. He graduated in spring 1970 (Bachelor of Social Sciences). Then Nickey decided to study medicine and started his studies again in Helsinki University in Autumn 1970. He continued as a SYL scholar until he finally graduated as a doctor also in 1984. SYL has also had other scholars from SWAPO.
In 1977 SYL started to support SWAPO and its Kwanza Sul Camp health care centre and education. At first material help was delivered (tents, school equipments, blankets, hospital equipments, etc.) and in 1981 three doctors; Juha Elo, Eeva Risku and Pirjo Lommi were sent to work at a helath care centre of the camp.
SYL participated when the kindergarten was built with the help of 'Taksvärkki -82' (Operation Day's work in 1982). Active organisations in the beginning seem to have been FAC and SYL. Funds for the nursery house were collected and the house was built in Kwanza Sul. Material for building as well as men to do the work, were sent from Finland. Worker's Educational Association participated also in this project. FINNIDA helped financially during all phases of the kindergarten project. The kindergarten was opened in 1985.
In 1986 Mr. Vesa Komonen worked at the camp to teach nursery teachers. This project was mainly administrated by SYL and the Students of pre-school education, SLOL.
In 1989 SYL supported the SWAPo Youth League as a part of the campaign 'Home from Abroad'.


[Series] Photo archives of SYL
[Volume] Kwanza Sul Kindergarten in SWAPO refugee camp


The archives concerning the development cooperation of SYL is largely disorganized. The SYL archives from 1921 to 1961 has been organized and can be found in the National Archives of Finland. Archives of the YKA's activities are also organized and can also be found in National Archives of Finland. SYL's archives after 1961 are in very bad shape. Only minutes of the boards of SYL are in order. SYL archives can be found in the SYL office, Lapinrinne 2, Helsinki.


Lappbrinken 2
00180 Helsingfors
fax: 029 009 0999

Country: Finland
Period: 1921-1986