translated from Spanish: University of Aysén in Covid-19 times

The covid-19 pandemic fell to all of us like a bucket of cold water. She looked far away, millions of miles away. Until, cautiously, we saw chile not exempt, nor was our distant and isolated Aysén Region. We observe in amazement how a remote town like Caleta Tortel took the news to confirm that, the dreaded “Coronavirus”, began to affect each of the spaces of life and by the way, of education.
We have had to adapt in so many different ways, that it still seems surreal to talk about masks, social distance, crisis, emergency, catastrophe. Words that resonate in all aspects of life a country and the whole world.
For higher education this was and still a huge challenge. We had to get away from the classrooms, that community space and fundamental to university life. The urgency of finding quick solutions led us to rethink everything. Remote work, online classes, flexibility in adapting procedures required collaborative work from our entire university community, with the sole purpose of safeguarding the health of all for the development of the academic process with all the difficulties that this entails.
In an isolated territory with little connectivity such as Aysén, the first challenge was to think about how students from localities far from the capital of the region would hold online classes, considering that many do not have internet access, often there is only one computer in the house or perhaps none, so we decided to support them with equipment and connectivity so that they could develop their academic process in the best possible way.
To this day, we can say that the result has been successful. Attendance and participation is 90%.
But the focus must also be on caring for people, on mental health, which today is more important than ever. The uncertainty caused by this unprecedented situation brings emotions such as anguish, sadness and fear. Each family is a world and balancing family life, domestic work, childcare, older adults, coupled with the workload or student, is a triple burden that is essential to attend.
How do we deliver certainties amid such uncertainty? Be attentive, busy looking for solutions, providing quick and concrete solutions, and in this the academy has a lot to say. Today is not a time for individualism or political colors. The virus doesn’t distinguish anything from that. Collaborative work is key and that is precisely the role of state universities. As a research house we have worked various initiatives such as data modeling, providing information to project the situation of the pandemic in the region, making available to the health authorities equipment of our laboratories to support the detection of the disease and the manufacture of protective elements for health personnel in our region.
The challenge that comes is to prepare for a progressive return and with all the security measures that this requires. Without a doubt, the challenge is to be able to adapt to the great change that this will mean, not only in the way we live, but also in the way we make university.
Finally, this is not only about being well in the particular, but how we help the region to be so, and for that we make available all our institutional capacities from all possible areas, as part of our role and commitment as a public and regional university.
The content poured into this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.

Original source in Spanish

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