For more than 20 years, children and university students in Malmö have connected with each other through the Nightingale mentoring programme. It is about making higher education a realistic ambition for children who may not receive such encouragement at home, increasing integration and building bridges between different worlds.

Since 1997, several thousand children have received mentorship from university students, and the cycle is now continuing with several of the children studying at university and becoming mentors themselves, giving back and passing the initiative on to the next generation. The Nightingale programme has also flown beyond Malmö’s borders and is today represented in 24 places around the world.

Children between the ages of 8 and 12 can apply to the Nightingale mentoring programme, and it is often those from socially vulnerable areas who are accepted. The basic idea is mutual benefit, where both the child and the mentor develop and broaden their perspectives by getting to know each other.

“The child and the student meet each other once a week over the course of a year. They spend time together, do different activities and just chat – which for the child often involves practising their conversational Swedish,” says Programme Manager Carina Sild Lönroth and emphasises that both the children and the students are transformed by their relationships.

The aim of the Nightingale mentoring programme is to reduce the skewed pattern of recruitment to universities and colleges, boost children’s self-confidence and create increased understanding, respect and tolerance. In the longer term, it is about helping children do better at school – and making the world of higher education seem more accessible. At the same time, the students gain an insight into a child’s life and bring increased empathy and understanding with them into working life.

The mentoring programme is named after the nightingale for two reasons. Firstly, the nightingale is a symbol of the City of Malmö. Secondly, as Ms Sild Lönroth explains, the nightingale is “a small bird that sings beautifully when it feels secure.”

This case relates to Global Goal 4: Quality education.

Read more about the Nightingale mentoring programme.