Student Welfare measures have been scaled up significantly by the University as students travel to their homes following a government directive instructing all schools and institutions of higher learning in the country to close. The 24th of March 2020 and the two days preceding it saw the University student body begin the process of checking out of the on- campus and Mutare City accommodations to return to their homes and respective countries where boarders remain open for returning nationals. Transportation from the main campus was arranged by the institution’s student leadership- the Student Representative Council, and the Dean of Students to ensure safe passage from trusted service providers.
Of particular concern to the University has been the international student population whose access to their countries remains a challenge in light of some nations restricting in and out bound flights to prevent new infections as well as financial limitations. During a special Senate Meeting convened by VC Prof. Furusa on the 24th of March, the institutions’ key management structures were debriefed of the current situation obtaining regarding the spread of the virus within Zimbabwe where of the two confirmed cases of COVID- 19 in the country, one regrettably passed away in the nations’ capital Harare on the 23rd of March 2020.
He said, “As we reflect on the happenings of the past few weeks, we are concerned and share with the entire continent and globe a sense of urgency to reinvent our institutions, our mechanisms and our strategies in response to this adversity. We stand ready to embrace every measure necessary to ensure we overcome this trial that we are confronted with specially to keep our students and staff safe.”
Dean of Students Mr. George Miti who is also the Chairman of the AU Corona Virus Rapid Response Team detailed the plans that are in place to provide a cushion to those international students who are unable to return home and those national students who are under financial strain, “As we speak, students have begun the process of returning to their homes. We are sensitive to the fact that many of the countries from which our students hail have closed their boarders and we are ready to stand in and provide the required shelter and protection necessary to this sub- set of our student body. During the stay of those of our international students who are unable to leave the country, there are new rules that they must adhere to where we are implementing the guidelines stipulated by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare of social distancing, good personal hygiene and limiting social contact.”
The University’s three colleges have taken a proactive approach to safeguarding the welfare of those students who are on attachment particularly in countries to which they are not native, offering a lifeline and support system of constant information and assistance in high need cases.
Speaking to the need to recognize the times and change habits, Prof. Furusa commented saying, “As I have observed our behaviours and interactions as a community, I note that so many still do not appreciate the gravity of the situation. As academics and creators of knowledge, we need to drive that change and lead our nations’ progression especially as we work with ZIMCHE (Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education) to bring our nations’ institutions of higher learning online. Africa University stands ready to lead from the front in this regard and I am happy to receive affirmations from our College Deans that we have capacitated our students and staff for the eventuality of completely recreating our classrooms and offices into virtual ones.”