The MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship, launched in 2009, recognizes exemplary university student civic engagement programs around the world. Today the Prize is a key element in the MacJannet Foundation’s work to build a community of global citizens. The Prize is sponsored jointly by the MacJannet Foundation and the Talloires Network, a global association of 417 universities in 79 countries on six continents, all committed to developing student leaders who are actively engaged with society.
In addition to providing international recognition to outstanding student initiatives for civic engagement and community service, the Prize provides a financial contribution and encourages communication among the groups to share their experiences and strengthen their effectiveness. In 2020, the deadline for Prize nominations coincided with shutdowns on many campuses due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, the competition received 19 nominations from 14 countries across six contents, only a slight decrease from the number received in 2019. Of these nominees, three were awarded prizes last June by a selection committee consisting of respected educators from member universities of the Talloires Network as well as representatives of the MacJannet Foundation. Three others were recognized for Honorable Mention.
Producing ‘big-hearted students’
First Prize ($7,500): Service-Learning Programme, Ngee Ann Polytechnic (Singapore)
Ngee Ann, a university with 14,000 students in nine schools, launched Service-Learning in 2016 as its signature pedagogy, becoming the first tertiary institution in Singapore to strategically integrate service learning into its core curriculum. All Ngee Ann students participate in at least one Service-Learning activity or project, tied to an academic module, applying the skills and knowledge from their course of study to address community issues. The program seeks to produce what it calls “big-hearted students who are passionate learners and globally smart professionals, while making a positive impact on society.” The program’s more than 400 instructors consult and work with community partners to ensure that projects meet identified community issues while achieving the courses’ academic goals.
The projects cover a broad range of areas, such as education, employability, elder care, health, environment, and community development. Students are encouraged to play a role in shaping their projects. From 2016 to 2019, more than 16,800 Ngee Ann students participated in some 150 projects involving more than 70 partners. They can also continue ServiceLearning in their final year through civic internships (an option chosen by more than 500 students in 2019) and some 25 international community projects (which attract more than 600 students annually).
With the arrival of Covid-19 in 2020, Ngee Ann had to quickly pivot to eService-Learning. Information sessions were held to help faculty re-design their projects so they could be carried out remotely. More than 20 ServiceLearning projects operated in the April 2020 semester. Some students embarked on projects to tackle Covid19-related issues themselves with various community partners. For example, a group of students started an Instagram campaign and gathered 20 donated laptops in just over a week. The laptops were then given to children from low-income families for home-based learning during Singapore’s Covid-19 lockdown period.
Another team is now running an online campaign, “SOAP-lution,” to solicit donations of soap and other amenities for care packs to be distributed to migrant workers in Singapore. Also, Ngee Ann’s School of Health Sciences developed a free 40-minute short course, “Infection Prevention and Control 101,” that offers basic knowledge of how infection spreads, and how to protect. The original course in English has since been translated into 14 languages.
Developing potential leaders
Second Place ($5,000): paNhari Program, University of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)
The paNhari Program, established in 2005 as a studentled project, empowers university students to become civically engaged through social entrepreneurship and to use innovation and business principles to improve the world. paNhari helps students discover their potential for leadership and develop successful futures for their communities by adopting a possibility-oriented approach to life in a country where political and economic instability can make it difficult for young people to participate in civic projects.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Zimbabwe’s nationwide lockdown and travel restrictions have restricted students’ ability to engage with communities. Nevertheless, paNhari students have found innovative ways to continue civic engagement activities. Using technology platforms, they have adopted virtual interactions with women and youth in the informal work sector to assess and understand how their livelihoods have been impacted by the pandemic. With the support of the MacJannet Prize, students are now providing tailored entrepreneurship training and small “revolving” loans to small struggling businesses, many run by women.
Educating the unschooled
Third Place ($2,500): Al-Qalam Program, National University of Sciences and Technology (Pakistan)
Al-Qalam program, launched in 2015, is a student organization that provides educational opportunities to children who are out of school due to their families’ financial limitations— a serious problem in a country where more than 40% of children under 16 are not enrolled in school. During last year’s coronavirus lockdown, the university closed and volunteers could not move easily around their communities or seek funds. But Al-Qalam Program student volunteers took it upon themselves to set up an online donation campaign, and through their own networking they helped parents on a case-to-case basis so their children are able to remain in school. Volunteers also collected new laptops and desktops to donate to families so children could continue with online learning.
Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali’s Programa Formación Javeriana para el Cambio Social y la Paz (Colombia). As a training ground for social change, the university has integrated experiential learning and community engagement into academic programs throughout the institution. Its students create spaces for the exchange of knowledge between communities and academia, transforming participants’ visions of themselves as citizens and professionals.
Universidad Veracruzana’s Intercultural University Student Projects (Mexico) offers degree programs in four regions whose residents lack access to higher education and related opportunities. It also offers a master´s degree in Nahua Language and Culture, the first program in the Americas completely offered in an indigenous language.
Community Health Nature Renewal Project at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Science (Tanzania), seeks to improve the health of Tanzania’s people by planting native trees and plants back into the gardens, school grounds, roadsides, and byways of the Ilala District, an ecosystem that has been 90% destroyed.