How universities are preparing to reopen

Uganda Christian University (UCU) graduates celebrate during a past graduation  ceremony at the university. Students in higher institutions of learning will resume studies on November 1 after a nearly five-month hiatus. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • The institutions of learning will reopen on November 1.

Students in higher institutions of learning will resume studies on November 1 after a nearly five-month hiatus following President Museveni’s closure of schools to curb the spread of Covid-19 in June.

Early this month, the President, however, recently gave the institutions the green light to reopen after weeks of speculation on when the learning facilities would be allowed to resume. He, however, directed that the staff be vaccinated. 

The State Minister for Higher Education, Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo, recently revealed that students aged 18 and above should also get jabbed.

Various challenges, including misinformation, have, however, contrived to keep the uptake of vaccines notoriously low. This has left many observers in doubt as to whether the institutions are prepared to receive students in four weeks’ time.

Universities speak out
Prof Umar Kakumba, the deputy vice chancellor of Makerere University, told Daily Monitor that the institution will stagger the students’ return. 

Prof Kakumba conceded that “allowing everyone back on campus on November 1 will certainly cause a problem.”
He added: “Instead, we shall receive those who had already been studying virtually, including the final bunch of finalists who will report for face-to-face interactions as well as prepare to sit for exams.”

After this respective group completes examinations, First Year students and other categories will return to commence their respective programmes.

However, Prof Paul Waako, the vice chancellor for Busitema University, said: “[Online] sessions will be for mostly courses with a big number of students; [whereas] face-to-face sessions will be preserved for practicals and examinations.” 

He added: “We certainly know that a number of our students are going to come when they have not been vaccinated. For this reason, we are working together with the district Covid-19 taskforce to ensure that vaccinationscamps are set up at all our campuses which students will easily access upon reporting.”

Inoculations on campuses
At Uganda Christian University (UCU), infrastructure has been set up to get returning students inoculated. The university clinic, Allan Galpin Health Centre, which was accredited by the Ministry of Health to work as a Health Centre III, will carry out the vaccinations. The university also has a functioning laboratory.

“Once our students report and the university gets supplies of the vaccine doses, we shall be encouraging all our students to get vaccinated,” Mr Frank Obonyo, the communications manager at UCU, said.
Similarly, in a September 27 statement, Prof Eli Katunguka, the vice chancellor of Kyambogo University, said students will be vaccinated at the university medical centre.

“I urge everyone to get vaccinated from wherever you are as we prepare to reopen. Kyambogo University Medical Centre will be one of the venues for vaccination so look out for their programme,” he said.

When Daily Monitor visited some of the institutions, we discovered that many were setting up various hand washing points and pinning messages on walls about coronavirus. 

At Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU), the public relations officer, Ms Rehema Kantono, said: “We shall not allow any student on campus without a facemask.” 

Most of these learning institutions said it was still quite early to tell how they would handle students who would not have yet been vaccinated by November 1.

“We shall have other subsequent meetings and see a way forward. But for now, we are strict about our teaching and non-teaching staff to get vaccinated,” Mr Hamuza Muwonge, the principal of Namasuba College of Commerce, said. 

He added: “We want them to lead by example. Without vaccination, we won’t allow them within the premises of the institute after November 1.”