The global MacJannet student citizenship prizes

Basavanagouda Patil is a final year student at the National Law School of India University. Much of his time is spent volunteering at the Legal Services Clinic, whose committee he leads, and which among other things provides legal services for the poor and public interest litigation. The clinic was one of three student projects to win a 2014 MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship.

The work has helped countless people, has taught Patil practical and leadership skills and – as regularly happens with student community engagement – has changed the course of his life.

“My trajectory was quite different. My final year has been spent working with the clinic, and that has involved a lot of policy formulation and implementation. So I think I will go into legal policy studies, and will study the drafting of laws because I see how they play out in the field and impact at the practical level,” Patil told University World News.

The sixth global MacJannet prizes for exceptional student community engagement initiatives were awarded on 2 December at the Talloires Network Leaders Conference held near Cape Town. The three prizes went to student projects in Canada, India and South Africa.

The prize from the MacJannet Foundation, in partnership with the Talloires Network of engaged universities, recognises university-based student projects around the world that demonstrate active citizenship and student leadership at the local level on an issue of global importance.

The winners are drawn from among the 332 member institutions of the Talloires Network, and the prize money is used to further the goals and strengthen the impact of the student initiatives.

The MacJannet prize

The MacJannet Foundation was started by Donald and Charlotte MacJannet. During his life Donald MacJannet had developed international schools and summer camps for children that focused on experiential learning and creating a sense of international citizenship.

“This spirit is in the DNA of the foundation,” the chair of the board of the MacJannet Foundation, Todd Langton, told University World News.

“When the Talloires Network approached us, they wanted to create a ‘Nobel prize’, if you will, for student leadership and volunteerism – to do something to really recognise the excellence of those student activities.

“We aim to do two things. One is to raise the public profile of great best practices across institutions. The second is to over time create best practices, by analysing initiatives and student volunteer efforts. What are some of the commonalities, and how can we share them?”

The prize has been highly successful, said Langton, in terms of the number and diversity of nominees and how each effort has been documented.

The 2014 winners

The Rec and Read Mentorship programme at the University Manitoba in Canada received the first prize of US$7,500 for 2014.

A national research grant in 2001 for Dr Joannie Halas in the faculty of kinesiology and recreation management, to investigate the cultural relevance and quality of physical education for aboriginal youth in Manitoba, laid the foundation for the engagement.

Research begun in 2001 resulted in the formation in 2005 of the Rec and Read Mentorship programme of community-based physical activity for youth.

There is now a weekly programme of after-school physical activity, nutrition and education for school students in both urban and aboriginal communities, delivered by University of Manitoba students and community members.

The Wits Initiative for Rural Health Education – WIRHE – at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa got the third prize of US$2,500.

The organisation started in 2003 to recruit disadvantaged students from rural areas into health science higher education. The programme started with a pilot of nine students and in 11 years has grown to include 50 students with a 90% pass rate.

Ntsiki Mapukata-Sondzaba, coordinator of WIRHE, said students were now working with community care centres and district hospitals to identify areas of expertise needed.

Benefits of engagement

Second prize of US$5,000 went to the Legal Services Clinic at the National Law School of India University. The clinic began as an unofficial student initiative aided by senior faculty members and was officially recognised by the university in 1997.

Convenor Basavanagouda Patil told University World News that students work with underprivileged members of society to deliver justice, applying what they learn in class. There are legal awareness campaigns, pro bono representation, public litigation for the urban poor and work aimed at improving the legal aid policy of the state.

Two clinic projects have won a MacJannet prize so far. One is an outreach initiative in which the National Law School University – top-ranked in India – helps other law colleges in less developed districts of Karnataka state to set up legal aid clinics. The second involves the Junior Justice Board, which students help directly with research and other work.

The clinic is run entirely by students, although it does have one faculty advisor who oversees its work, and academics help the students with, for instance, contacts and permissions as well as monitoring their work.

Undoubtedly the clinic helps people who cannot afford legal support, but there are also lots of benefits for students, said Patil.

“They get first-hand experience of working directly with a client. Last year we had more than 100 clients. It’s not only clients coming into the clinic – we also have a dedicated phone where people call us and seek legal advice.”

Students learn about contract law, family law, divorce law and child welfare. “All these are in theory in the classroom but in practice at the clinic.

Aside from 18 or so student committee members, there are around 200 student volunteers working at the clinic. Students are recognised by the university for the legal clinic work, not in academic credits but with attendance credits, in speeches at graduation ceremonies, and with certificates of merit awarded on graduation.

Honourable mentions

There were two honourable mentions for the MacJannet citizenship prize.

The Centro de Desarrollo Comunal at Universidad Señor de Sipán in Peru, established in 2009, was honoured for contributing towards the development of the Lambayeque region through training, service learning and community empowerment.

Pathways to Higher Education at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines was recognised for its work in providing academic and formative training to talented youths so that they can access reputable universities.

The Philippines has limited access to higher education for public school students, who often struggle with academic competence and lack of confidence.

Nomination for the next round of MacJannet prizes has already begun, and close on 23 January 2015. Talloires Network member universities may each enter two programmes. While only member universities may apply, all universities are welcome to become members by signing the Talloires Declaration. Potential members can contact