On March 26, in the context of the imposition of strict social distancing measures caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, a “Service-Learning in times of pandemic: online workshop with open reflection” was held as a joint initiative of the University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt Catholic (CUEI) and CLAYSS. The virtual event was facilitated by the Erasmus + project “Service Learning in Higher Education” (SLIHE) and was attended by many members of the European SL networks.
The webinar was a great starting point for the UNISERVITATE Program, an occasion to meet virtually, reflect, imagine proposals and help us navigate together these times of uncertainty and also of hope. The objective was to promote international reflection on various service-learning initiatives and university commitment in times of pandemic.
We know that service learning offers unique social-educational opportunities for students, teachers, researchers and community members to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes while contributing to the improvement of the community as a whole and empowering the voiceless. Pope Francis encourages us to go out to the existential peripheries and recognize the needs of others with an attitude of openness and mercy. However, in this moment of global pandemic, the question that prompted reflection is how to continue being a committed university when our doors are closed. If solidarity education is a way of identifying and addressing current problems, how can universities create civic awareness and citizen participation in this context of social isolation? Can we open a virtual window?
The webinar – a pioneering experience in times of multiplication of virtual exchange spaces – had the participation of around 40 attendees from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa who spoke online in small simultaneous discussion groups about service learning in times of coronavirus and proposed ideas to give continuity to the projects in their regions.
The workshop subsequently led to numerous connected initiatives. In Eichstätt the results of the discussions were incorporated into additional online workshops on cooperation between higher education institutions and the civil society in Germany. And from CLAYSS, other webinars for the Spanish-speaking community were organized, such as the one that took place on May 13th together with the University of the Americas (Chile) and the Iberoamerican Service Learning Network (Iberoamerican Service-Learning Network).
The reflections of the groups were represented in a visual graphing proposal designed by the South African artist Nicolene Louw.
UNISERVITATE is a global and networked programme that is established through a process of permanent development and the integration of new actors and institutions from a series of regional hubs strategically distributed around the world.