“No post-school education institutions are structurally, systemically and otherwise capable to continue the academic year 2020 online in a socially just manner that provides adequately for students with the least access and security.” This is the harrowing assessment from a conversation among 25 concerned academics at seven universities in South Africa.
They released a plan that calls for the “immediate cessation of formal online curriculum roll-out.” Instead, they have asked for the government to lead a dialogue with students and affected communities, to develop and distribute infrastructure for online learning, and to training students and staff. Simply, students and staff at universities are not ready for an online curriculum roll-out.
Students and staff at universities are not ready for an online curriculum roll-out.Tweet
For these academics, the period between now and a return to campus-based teaching should be used to build relationships on social justice, focus on areas of common knowledge interests and teach students in community. Effectively, they are proposing a new “social pedagogy” outside of the classroom.
They propose that between now and July, the focus should be on adapting the curriculum. From July to September, they propose in-sheltered learning. Then from September until December (or into 2021), the 2020 academic year can be completed. Otherwise, the academic years of 2020 and 2021 can both be completed in 2021.
“The originally envisaged 2020 academic year is no longer possible, and so must be reimagined. We should now prepare a pedagogy that allows students to learn as they shelter in place.”A Proposed Plan for a Social Pedagogy Alternative in the Time of Pandemic
“Going online immediately will simply widen existing inequalities and make meaningful learning impossible for the vast majority of students,” the plan states. The crux of the plan is to try a different approach to learning during this pandemic. Instead of rushing to advance the academic year, students can spend this time learning more about the “out-of-classroom” knowledge so often neglected at institutions of learning.
There is no way to go online now without harming the most marginalised students. There is, however, the opportunity to use institutions to educate differently and to learn more about community, social justice and the world.