Rwanda: Varsities Roll Out New Covid Measures

Different institutions of higher learning have imposed new strict measures to help contain the spread of Covid, in the wake of a surge in cases in many parts of the country, in what is shaping up to be the third wave of the virus.

In the first two days of this week, new infections shot up sharply, with 861 cases recorded Tuesday, June 22 alone and 622 cases the day before.

The spike in infections forced the cabinet on Monday to revise the existing health measures in bid to contain the virus, where among other things, inter-district travel is prohibited, and the nationwide curfew is starting 7am to 4am, effective Wednesday.

Now, some public and private tertiary institutions have put in place fresh measures in view of the prevailing situation, especially with some of them witnessing a resurgence of on-campus cases.

For instance, the African Leadership University (ALU) yesterday released new guidelines to be followed by all its students in the next two weeks, with a view "to safeguard the health and safety of our community and to comply with government regulations."

In an email which The New Times has seen, ALU informed all its students that "at the moment, we have a no guest policy on campus for the next two weeks."

It continues saying that apart from the usual health protocols to contain the virus, all social gatherings will be put on hold for the next two weeks, including contact sports and celebrations of any kind on the campus.

In addition to that, "a negative Covid-19 test result is now a mandatory requirement for physical meetings on campus. All meeting participants must present the test results at least 24 hours prior to the meeting."

Emphasis on online learning

All ALU students are studying online, and are only allowed on campus from 8a.m-5p.m but are encouraged to continue studying from home and only to campus only if it's necessary.

At Mount Kenya University Rwanda, all face to face classes were suspended last Friday, June 18, with all students now studying online.

This will continue to be the case for the next two to three weeks, according to the Vice Chancellor Edwin Odhuno (PhD).

Odhuno told The New Times they planned beforehand that they will use blended learning because of the pandemic, whereby students would attend physical classes for a period of time and then shift to online classes for a period of two to three weeks.

"We pre-planned it just to take precaution, that's why we implemented it last Friday because we saw the cases going up in the country generally," he said, insisting they must maintain this in the future to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

"The measures we took helped us because there are very few cases, thanks to the precautions that we took, and, periodically, we have to do the same because this is the future of learning and delivery of education," he added.

Gloria Ineza, a third year nursing student at MKU Rwanda, said that the university trained them on how to use online platforms, but she added that some of her colleagues face issues with the internet and there are some who don't own laptops which leads them to miss some lessons.

Responding to these challenges, Odhuno said that most students have no issues, because they informed them beforehand that there would be periods when they would study online. "However, if they have issues we are able to respond to them very quickly in the most convenient way for the students."

'Continued vigilance'

While some other universities haven't necessarily introduced drastic changes over the last few days, they are beefing up inspections to ensure compliance with existing guidelines, The New Times learnt.

Ignatius Kabagambe, Head of Corporate Communication at the University of Rwanda, said that ever since students returned to the university, there had been the rule of social distancing, which means that classrooms were no longer able to accommodate the normal numbers.

The answer was found in blended learning, whereby some courses are taught online, and others are attended physically, which is still going on, he said.

"The entire community of the University of Rwanda is focused on what we always focused on, which is total compliance with the cabinet decisions because everyone understands that the decisions are for the good of everyone.

"Our part is to make sure that there is no letting down, there is no relaxing, we encourage and sensitise (UR community) to make sure that everyone remains vigilant," he added.

Meanwhile, IPRC-Musanze has recently recorded new cases after going about six months with no new confirmed infections, according to the Principal, Emile Abayisenga.

"We reserved some rooms for isolation, that's where we take anyone who tests positive (for Covid), and then health workers help them from there until they recover," he told The New Times.

He added that despite the rise in cases around the country and the new cases at the Musanze-based campus, there are no particular measures in place except observing the existing ones and contact-tracing to help prevent new infections.

About the studies, he said that they are using both online and physical classes because they mainly focus on practicals which require that the students meet the trainers physically.

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