“On 13 March 2020, during the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, JET Education Services (JET) released the special Bulletin, Extending the capacity of governments and communities to save lives: The role of education systems in responding to COVID-19 and other threats. This was two weeks before lockdown measures in South Africa were to commence, and the education sector in South Africa was wholly unprepared for what lay ahead of it. Of course, South Africa was not unique in this precarious situation, with many countries across the world, including many first world countries, struggling to come to grips with the scale and potential impact of the crisis they were edging towards.
It was also at this moment, as we were contemplating the role JET could play during this unprecedented time, that the notion of a collaborative educational research response emerged in a rather spontaneous manner. The preliminary paper set the stage for JET to announce the start of the ‘Researchers’ Bootcamp’, #OpenupYourThinking, on the eve of South Africa’s lockdown on 26 March 2020. Initially planned to be conducted across six thematic areas, the bootcamp soon grew to eight, then 10 and later 12 themes, comprising over 120 volunteer researchers (mostly below the age of 35) recruited from across South Africa and, in some cases, South Africans based in China, Malaysia and other parts of the world. The volunteers were paired with senior established researchers, or theme leads, from key disciplines and were further supported by peer reviewers from local education departments, sector education and training authorities (SETAs) as well as a good number of international peer reviewers. With a strong activist leaning to the process, the key focus was on finding real-time solutions to the pressures being placed on education systems by COVID-19 using an evidence-based approach. This coordinated approach allowed for innovative, fit for purpose and agile research models and strategies to be formulated, while providing JET and other organisations with a platform to contribute real-time inputs towards other national education processes. The twin focus on agile research and the capacity building of the group of young researchers, besides keeping them meaningfully occupied during the lockdown period, soon evolved into substantive research being done across the 12 themes – in some cases extending well beyond the fiveweek period during which the bootcamp took place.” James Keevy.
Click here to read the full report by Rubeena Parker, Katherine Morris and Jane Hofmeyr