Dear IFWEA Affiliates; Executive Committee Members; Global Knowledge Community,
As we face a global pandemic that threatens our communities, organisations and families, I wanted to let you know how we are approaching the situation at the IFWEA Secretariat.
In the interest of the public health imperative and in line with recommendations from the South African government to slow down infection rates, we have taken the decision to close the Secretariat office with immediate effect until the end of April 2020.
All travel of Secretariat staff has been cancelled with immediate effect. We will review this decision in May, but need to sound a warning that April – July (winter) is our peak infection season in South Africa. There’s much that is still not known about Coronavirus and much is dependent on how the pandemic evolves. However, given the South African context, if the virus spread is not completely contained in the next month, we do not envisage that we will be able to honour any travel arrangements out of the country before winter has passed. Throughout this period we will continue to monitor the situation, update our partners as the situation unfolds and evolve our approach to travel as the context changes.
Furthermore, until the end of April, Secretariat staff will not accept requests to meet us physically, we will conduct all meetings online. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and hope that our partners will understand and accept our decision. We will review this decision in early May 2020.
Despite these drastic decisions, our system is geared for remote working and there are likely to be a few operational inconveniences when you engage with us. We consider that we are well situated to continue our work, for two reasons:
Firstly, we have at our, and your disposal, the Online Labour Academy – OLA – which we have developed, applied and tested with many of our affiliates over the past four years. OLA now assumes even greater utility and value in the current and future context.
OLA allows us to explore different means of making our and your education accessible without losing the momentum. We are open to adjusting programme work for this year. We aim to focus on assisting our affiliates to continue their provision of key education activities to their partner trade unions and community organisations. Education for working class communities will be severely affected, as they most often use public transport to attend events. As gatherings of people put too great a risk on public health, the use of OLA can immediately assist affiliates to adapt to a socially responsible approach in providing popular education.
In the next few weeks, IFWEA’s Programme Manager Saliem Patel and Educator Renaldi Prinsloo will contact affiliates who had planned education events with the Secretariat, to establish whether they would like to continue with their planned topics, or adapt the support they require to more urgent educational imperatives brought about by the pandemic lockdown.
Secondly, as an organization accustomed to meeting over video, our shift to remote work should be relatively smooth. We subscribe to a video conferencing facility (BlueJeans) which allows for online meetings and webinars. We are also exploring the acquisition of an additional video conferencing facility that will allow for simultaneous translation, as BlueJeans does not accommodate this. Until we acquire simultaneous translating facilities, we will utilise our online education platform OLA for streamed discussions necessary to co-ordinate participatory decision making and programme work, as Google Translate is embedded in the platform.
We wish you all everything of the best in this unsettling time. Above all else, our concerns are with anyone who has been impacted by the virus. Our hearts go out to those who are fighting for their health and we wish them a full recovery. We extend our gratitude and support to the first responders and healthcare workers who are risking their lives to help our communities get through this difficult time.
19 March 2020