AUTHOR: By Beverley Dankers / By Brandstories 1h ago
Are you hesitant about putting events in your calendar for 2021, especially after what took place last year?
In January 2020, many of us had our year planned on a personal, organisational or institutional level. How could we have known that a few months into the year we would all be watching E.TV holding our breath with mixed emotions, as the President of South Africa announced the country’s ‘State of Disaster’?
The nation came to a standstill, and then, in slow motion over the months that followed, we began to make the adjustments as each less restricting lock down level was announced.
For tertiary institutions and schools, this meant quickly coming up with strategies so that teaching, learning, and other events could continue. Virtual meetings and social media platforms quickly became the saviour of our days and it was through this medium that learning could continue, families could connect, events could still be hosted and those of us needing human connection, could still stay sane.
Hosting events during lockdown however, came with its own set of challenges, even though it was some of those very events that would sometimes help a nation behind closed doors handle the emotional, financial and health stresses that came with the pandemic. Who could attend these well intended events?
Only those who had the technical resources, electricity to keep those technical resources charged and the finances to ensure data connectivity. These sound like such simple things to some of us. Charging a laptop, flipping a switch for power, or having an unlimited Wi-Fi connection. Yet, for some students at public universities or colleges with NPO statuses, even if data and devices were provided, it would probably only be enough to join virtual lessons and downloading resources needed for assignments.
Events on other platforms like WhatsApp proved helpful because of the WhatsApp data deals but it did not provide the same functionality as Zoom, Microsoft teams, Google hangouts or Institutional education tutorial platforms. Be that as it may, while we all adjusted and students received assistance and support from institutions, family, friends and neighbours, we all also had to deal with the rising number of Covid-19 infections and Covid-19 related deaths, grievous Gender Based Violence cases and other senseless murders. The nation needed something to lift the heaviness after each news broadcast so Nestle chose to do a 20 to 30 second positive blurb after the 8pm news. It did bring a smile, an “Ooo” and an “Ahh” to some.
Around the world many colleges and universities hosted mental health workshops, conferences, webinars or virtual round table discussions for students and staff about coping during lockdown or the effects Covid-19 had on students and its impact on the remote teaching environment. In order to still continue with the planned events of the year tertiary institutions hosting big events like Orientation for new students and Graduation for exiting students were forced to resort to virtual platforms.
While hosting these big events was a first for many, there are several virtual event success stories from institutions and then there are also some events that transpired through trial and error.
Not all institutions hosted virtual graduations or events, but with the rise of the second wave in South Africa and the announcement from the president on the 14th December, 2020, some institutions still planning to host in-person graduation ceremonies cancelled these events.
In 2020 many tertiary institutions cancelled, postponed or moved events to a virtual platform. Now, in 2021 with the second wave of the pandemic swooping through some of our provinces, the reality is that events and gatherings may need to be cancelled, postponed or hosted virtually again. Are we prepared this time? Well, we should be, especially since we had a practice run in 2020.
With all the uncertainty and pandemonium in 2020, planning virtual events was not easy. Despite this Cornerstone Institute managed to host virtual Critical Dialogues throughout the year, offer virtual orientation for new students who registered in July, hosted a virtual 50th Celebration Concert in November and a virtual Graduation ceremony in December.
Despite the unknown and uncertainties for 2021 Cornerstone Institute has resorted to planning none-the-less and with each plan to have a plan V. Yes, that was not a typo. Plan V is their Virtual Plan. In order to welcome and be ready for the 2021 campus students, Cornerstone planned their 2021 campus orientation with a virtual orientation as a back-up should the situation in the country call for it.
There are many moving parts to planning in this way and it is not easy, yet it is important for us to know that during this time of unprecedented uncertainty, all new students can be certain about one thing, they will know that they will be adequately equipped to start the first class of their academic journey with Cornerstone in February.