Stories: Global Higher Education at the Margins during a Global Pandemic

Published by
Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE)
Written by
Melissa Hauber-Özer via Jesuit Worldwide Learning
Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Distance Education

This story was collected as part of INEE's 20th Anniversary commemoration to highlight how education in the midst of crisis and upheaval has made a difference for our members and those they work with (learners, youth, teachers, caregivers, etc.). For more stories, click here.

Global Higher Education at the Margins during a Global Pandemic

Name: Melissa Hauber-Özer

Organization: Jesuit Worldwide Learning 

Location: Global 

Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) recently celebrated ten years of providing access to university-level English, diploma, degree, and professional certificates to refugee, remote, and marginalized learners in 17 countries through blended learning. Most centers are in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, and the programs are accredited through partnerships with universities in North America and Europe.

When my face-to-face teaching job abruptly ended in April due to COVID-19, I began teaching JWL’s 6-month Learning Facilitator professional certificate course. The blended model combines onsite meetings with online content delivery and global classroom discussions; my role as an online faculty member is to facilitate discussion boards and provide guidance and feedback on assignments. Weekly units cover essential knowledge, skills, and strategies for effective, student-centered instruction and draw heavily on INEE resources, especially the Training for Primary School Teachers in Crisis Contexts pack. Topics include the use of technology and media, inclusion of linguistically and culturally diverse learners, gender sensitivity, curriculum planning, and multiple intelligences, and the course culminates in an 8-week practicum experience. Since internet access is not widely available in most learners’ locations, they download online content and upload assignments at community learning centers using JWL-provided tablets and WiFi. Certificate recipients go on to teach in JWL centers, community-run schools and learning centers, and local public schools. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our learning centers were forced to close their doors. My learners persisted through camp and community lockdowns, weeks without internet access, bouts of malaria, and monsoon season, and figured out ways to complete their practicum experiences despite school closures and social distancing measures. I am inspired by their dedication, growth, and desire to put their new knowledge and skills to work in their communities. This is the power of education in emergencies.

The views expressed in this blog are the author's own.