You can read a Kiswahili version of this blogpost here.

The Service Learning Regional Hub for Africa has now recruited five Catholic Higher Education institutions whose membership was approved on December 22, 2020. The members are the Universit’e Catholique de”Afrique Centrale, Catholic University of Rwanda, University of Kisubi in Uganda and Mwenge Catholic University in Tanzania. My Research Fellowship is about raising the profile of the network and recruiting new members from the region. The recruitment has facilitated direct link with hub institutional coordinators from each university. This is helpful since we shall now develop a regional database for those showing interest to join and plan on follow up strategies for such. We shall also come up with a simple and short questionnaire to inquire why and why not join the network.   

In Cameroon for instance, Dr. Cyrille Mfonga, is the Africa hub’s institutional coordinator and also the coordinator for three other campuses of Catholic Universities in Central Africa with a population of about 7000 students and over 1000 academic staff. Through our virtual meetings, he is very enthusiastic about GO-GN and what it does. According to him, bringing together PhD candidates to share their frustrations and challenges as well as support to attend international conferences are some of the unique roles of the network that are influential to him.  He is looking forward to the French translation of the flyer to assist him in sharing the information about the network with his colleagues and students who are French speakers.    

In October 2020, the Vatican’s Global Compact on education week inspired my work as the hub regional coordinator on Service Learning and as an advocate for GO-GN Network in the region. Out of the seven commitments of education pact, three of them defined our network: focus, welcoming and involving.

Using the three pillars; and after the constitution of the Africa regional hub, the institutional coordinators has now assumed the role of GO-GN ambassadors for the region. They are using the flyers developed English and Kiswahili to share the information about the network. The fora such as symposia, conferences and virtual inaugural activities provided a good platform for me to raise the profile of the network, as well as building its purpose.

For instance, in our first inaugural meeting in January 19, 2021, I took advantage of the first five minutes to find out on the progress from those whom I contacted before, explain about the GO-GN flyer and to listen to their questions and concerns. Some of the frequently asked questions include: How did you know about GO-GN? Is GO-GN a University in the UK? Can the network link us with relatively cheap universities for PhD education abroad? Does the network have special support systems for African women pursing their doctoral studies? The responses to these questions seem very obvious but can be quite complex. 

Some members of the hub have shown interest to join the network either as friends, supervisors or scholars. For instance, Sr. Dr. Africunus and Br. Dr. Bernard Luwekera who are the hub’s coordinators from Mwenge Catholic university in Tanzania and University of Kisubi in Uganda respectively, shared the Kiswahili version of the flyer with their colleagues and friends at the Open University of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam and Makere University in Kampala even though they do not have a background of OER or OEP but they would wish to be friends of the network.   

The planned inaugural seminars for the hubs in February and March; training of trainers from February to May and the formation of students’ service learning clubs across all the regions will be a good avenue for raising the network’s profile, building its purpose, as well as recruitment of new members. In collaboration with the hub’s coordinators, we plan to host institutional virtual meetings with interested candidates or faculty/ post graduate students from the four universities. Similarly, the meetings shall be with other coordinators from other six regions.  

For more information on what has been achieved at the hubs and global level, kindly visit: Service Learning and Universitate.

What has happened so far?

  1. November/ December 2020: Development of GO-GN flyers in English and Kiswahili
  2. December 22, 2020: Hub membership constitution –Africa hub formed 
  3. November 23-27, 2020: Service Learning week: Webinars for students and faculty on SL, Students SL Essay and Challenge
  4. January 19 and 26, 2021: Hub membership induction: Signing of Mutual Understanding Agreement and development of action plans for the region
  5. January 27, 2021: Preparations for Online Course “Training of Trainers” for Hubs Team Members and Associated universities (Cameroon, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania).

Challenges…

  1. Slow movement of events and change of dates of activities due to different institutional calendars
  2. Early Christmas break/ holiday for some universities in the region and at the global offices by November 2020.
  3. Different time zones and poor internet connections in the region (Uganda’s political internet shut down)
  4. Fear of not meeting the fellowship deadlines in March 2021!!!

Next steps…

  1. Hub membership inaugural seminars – February and March 2021
  2. Global virtual meetings and workshops for action plan development and calendar of events harmonization – February and March 2021.
  3. Training of Training for all hub membership contacts- March 15- May, 2021
  4. Proposed visits (face to face) visits to Africa membership to spearhead institutionalization of SL –May to July, 2021. 
  5. Global forum for Hub Regional Coordinators in Argentina – August 2021.

All images by Judith Pete