Change the world


The most remarkable lesson for the globe during the Covid-19 pandemic was the incredible ability of humanity to work together as a single unit for the preservation of life, writes Beata Mtyingizana, Senior Director of Nelson Mandela University’s International Office. 
The ease and speed with which the virus spread and the magnitude of the turmoil caused by it, necessitated unprecedented global collaborations. Scientists, researchers and higher education institutions worked hand in glove with industry, governments and civil society to respond to the crisis. 
For Mandela University, the situation threw into focus our commitment to internationalisation, with Covid-19 spotlighting the need to drive international collaborations and partnerships that deliver on our unwavering commitment to help create solutions for meaningfully changing the world.
Digitalisation has become the driver for international engagements during this time – for the University, embracing the ‘new normal’ launched the process of envisioning a digitalised internationalisation model of the future.
Stronger together
Though we continue battling the impact of Covid-19, we are undeterred in our efforts to work collaboratively with the rest of the world to discover new knowledge and produce groundbreaking research offering solutions to global challenges.
This vision corresponds with Sustainable Development Goals and channels efforts to connect with Africans on our continent and beyond, in order to deliver on the African Union’s Agenda 2063: ‘The Africa We Want’.
As the pandemic spread, higher education institutions were forced to transform overnight. This manifested in a richness of multidisciplinary research, scientific innovation and technological advances. 
The world needed to survive, life needed to continue, and so did learning, research and global interaction. Technological innovations carried the world as work, research, teaching and learning took an online turn. Internationalisation was no exception. 
Digital platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams shrunk the globe, enabling a reimagining of internationalisation. All this changed the meaning of time and distance; it blurred geographic borders, challenging the notions of ‘international’ and ‘local’ as immigration laws governing the mobility of international students did not govern virtual learning spaces.
The human touch 
Our vision of the digital transformation of internationalisation is firmly within the context of a university that lives up to – and aligns its efforts with – the distinct, iconic ethos of Nelson Mandela.
Madiba spent his life advocating for a just and equitable society within which an interconnectedness of humanity embodied the advancement of rights, freedoms and dignity for all. 
With this in mind, Nelson Mandela University is committed to being in service of society – and to delivering life-changing, student-centric educational experiences and opportunities. 
Lockdown restrictions catapulted the introduction of multiple pathways to learning and teaching, enabling many international students to continue their studies at home, and providing ongoing support for local students.
The University also provided financial, logistical, emotional and general support for international students unable to leave South Africa. This support included food parcels to alleviate hunger, flexible concessions to ease financial burdens visa extensions and extending medical aid coverage. 
Our International Office staff always ensured a degree of human interaction and safe contact with students, which was important, as the provision of emotional support helped to alleviate feelings of alienation and isolation.
An article in the University’s news bulletin, titled ‘Whatever the Nationality, a Mother’s Care Knows no Borders’, paid tribute to Natasha September, a member of the International Office staff responsible for postgraduate student support, who championed the distribution of food parcels amongst those students badly affected during lockdown. 
The article highlighted the feeling of warmth that they received from members of the University who reached out to ensure that all Mandela students were treated with dignity and care. 
And in today’s world, we need that more than ever before.

Contact information
Ms Lyndall Sa Joe-Derrocks
Publications Practitioner
Tel: 27 41 504 2159