The recent pandemic (Covid-19) has impacted education systems in universities around the world. The impact has been dramatic for institutions, academics, and students looking for workable short term solutions for online teaching and learning. The unique challenge facing higher education encouraged DEN to look for opportunities to stay in contact with students using online facilities. Through the academic initiative, we invited students to meet and organise feasible and appropriate projects at this time. Using Inside Westminster we have agreed that students will write an article and or provide a 5 minutes video of their reflection and experience of Covid-19. We have encouraged students from all over the world to express their stories and share them with each other, hoping that this would provide a channel not only to learn but also to engage with each other. Hence, the following articles in this section are students’ reflections/experiences of Covid-19.
We open today’s blog by thanking the students in the Democratic Education Network (DEN) for your support and contributions to our community work. Before the pandemic, we ran weekly community sessions in London, with English and IT classes, as well as social events. We had a reading group and book club and started a creative writing project.
Due to the Covid-19 situation, we had to press pause on our in-person, but we have nonetheless made sure to keep the community vibrant and supported through a WhatsApp group, and we have been able to share resources there (both regarding language learning and also NHS information about how to keep safe during Covid-19).
We continued and finalised our creative writing project during this time (see here), and also set up an ambulant food bank, safely delivering supermarket food packs to our community members and beyond. This has been very popular and we hope it has helped to make people feel supported during this time. Here’s what some of our community members have to say about the lock-down period:
“Lockdown was a hard and difficult time, and we were a bit scared that things were not going to be normal again. Now thank God, we can come together again.”
“In lockdown it was so boring and I had nowhere to go.”
“I was really scared, and it was a difficult time, especially with a lot of stress around you, and you had nowhere to go, and that’s what made it more difficult. Being isolated in your room.”
“It was really, really difficult. It was my first time ever I have been facing this kind of situation, so it was really strange for me.”
“I was feeling stressed and bored during the lockdown, so isolated. I was close to going mad from the pressure of the lockdown, even though I could not go anywhere, I was feeling unwell, not being able to go anywhere and communicate with the other people.”
Now, however, during the summer when lock-down was lifted, we organised two barbecue celebrations in north-west London, which was attended by dozens of community members. It was the first time since the beginning of March that people were able to meet and, unsurprisingly, friends turned up in large numbers! It was wonderful to see so many new and old faces, people sharing food and stories, groups playing games and making new friends. Here’s what some of our community members had to say about the event:
“I’m super happy because I have been in lockdown for three months, and haven’t seen anybody and finally because of this meeting. Really grateful for this opportunity.”
“Now, finally, we have positive things to enjoy when we come out of lock-down. I’m very thankful to all the Hopetowns team, who are organising things for us.”
We are looking forward to opening the Hopetowns community again when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, we continue to be creative in how we communicate with, and work with the community to get through this challenging period together.
By Marta Welander