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Father Heart Engaged Learning Festival

(Partnership between Bloemshelter (NGO) and University of the Free State 2019


The COVID-19 pandemic is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods. Through the learning festival, we aim to be involved in safeguarding people’s lives and their livelihoods. This humanitarian crisis has provided an opportunity to learn and reflect on the ways in which we can build and work together to fight a common enemy.

Partnerships based on solidarity will be the cornerstone for addressing the impact and creating progress in society. Civil Society, women and grassroots organizations, community-based organizations, and faith-based organizations will play a vital role. In assisting the most vulnerable populations, these networks are active in bringing economic and livelihood opportunities and adapting responses to the community context. These organizations, in many locations in the world, are the first, or only, point of reference for individuals and families as they seek to cope with the impacts of COVID-19 and the recovery ahead.

The Bloemshelter and University of the Free State (UFS) annual Father Heart Engaged Learning Festival is an inclusive educational event that offers an opportunity for all people to come together on an equal platform to share, learn or extend skills, knowledge, and expertise leading to sustainable livelihoods. The 8th festival builds on sustainable collaborative partnerships with civil society, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, the business sector, government departments, UFS faculties, Central University of Technology, and UFS students to facilitate community engagement for development.

The festival will follow the practice of E-Community Engagement (ECE), which refers to an alternative online/virtual community engagement platform aimed at facilitating continuously negotiated collaborations and partnerships between the university and the interest groups that it interacts with, aimed at building and exchanging the knowledge, skills, expertise, and resources required to develop and sustain society. Such alternative engagement stems from adapting physical face-to-face (f2f) community engagement and service-learning, towards an e-learning engaged environment. During this uncertain state of restricted f2f engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown Information and Communication Technology platforms will be used for Development (ICT4D). Development-focused initiatives in ICT are aimed at reducing poverty, increasing the quality of life, and accelerating lifelong learning and education for all.

The objectives of this year’s Learning Festival are to:

  1. Launch a virtual Engaged Learning Festival platform for prolonged impact on the community
  2. Strengthen families as the core of community towards sustainable livelihoods
  3. Pilot E-Service-Learning as learning that holds massive potential to transform both service-learning and online learning by freeing service-learning from geographical constraints and by equipping online learning with a powerful and much-needed tool to promote engagement, social responsibility, and active citizenship.
  4. To understand the physical, mental, social & economic impact of the pandemic through trans-disciplinary research. Lessons from this human crisis can build more just and resilient societies and deliver on the promise of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and the goals of the Agenda 2063 plan.
  5. Investigate the possibility to establish self-directed practical learning pathways with a portfolio of learning evidence for personal and professional development.
  6. To inform policy, through analyzing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic

Country: South Africa

Year: 2019-2020

Institution: University of the Free State

Person in charge: Karen Venter

Email: venterk1@ufs.ac.za

# of students: 1.000

Interaction with beneficiaries: Mixed

Academic Degree: Undergraduate | Master | PhD

Discipline(s): Medicine and health | Economics

Community Service Area & ODS: Quality Education | Good health and well-being | Decent work and economic growth

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