Coronavirus Crisis in Africa
Leading South African social scientists are calling for greater engagement in shaping the mitigation policies being produced by the government to manage the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
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Coronavirus Crisis Africa: 16-23 April
Africa is still being viewed through a colonial prism with an emphasis on the continent’s vulnerability rather than its capacity to contribute to concerted global efforts to defeat the coronavirus.
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PHOTO Africa’s leading universities are stepping up to the plate, assisting governments through research to contain the pandemic, and finding other channels through which to deliver on their mandates.
PHOTO The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that African universities and research institutions have the commitment to respond to the emerging needs of society and industry, but without greater investment in research and development such a response will never reach its full potential.
Academics from several universities throughout South Africa have demanded an immediate halt to formal online learning at universities, warning that continuation would result in an “academic disaster” and compound the effects of the pandemic.
Barely a month after the country went into lockdown to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, some private-sector universities in Rwanda, citing a lack of funds, have suspended academic and administrative staff and reduced the salaries of others.
Egypt’s higher education authorities have cancelled the final exams of the second semester in different universities in the country to help stem an outbreak of the new coronavirus. The step comes more than a month after Egypt shut down all schools and universities as part of precautions to contain the spread of the potentially fatal disease.
African students in India are the subject of racial profiling and are being blamed for spreading the coronavirus. It is so bad that most of them are unable to go out and shop for essential supplies.
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A new six-part dialogue series offered by the Alliance for African Partnership or AAP kicks off on 29 April with a discussion on “COVID-19 Pandemic: Responses and lessons learnt from African universities”. The series will be moderated by Professor Paul Zeleza, vice-chancellor of the United States International University-Africa. As a media partner to the series, University World News – Africa will be bringing our readers insightful and analytical reports based on the webinars.
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Coronavirus Crisis Africa: 9-16 April
Despite massive investment in national ICT infrastructure in Uganda, online learning has not been embraced by universities and schools during the lockdown, which suggests that barriers to online learning are more than simply infrastructural.
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PHOTO The range of containment measures imposed by national governments to counter the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically affected research, teaching and learning in African universities – in some cases leading to their suspension. In these unusual circumstances, what are the implications for academic freedom?
PHOTO While some African universities are forging ahead with end-of-semester exams using alternative online methods, others are still considering their options. At the root of the issue are resources and preparedness.
Coronavirus Crisis Africa: 2-9 April
Internationalisation as we know it is under review, if not under threat. The coronavirus pandemic provides us with an opportunity to think the world of higher education internationalisation afresh, casting a critical eye on the concepts, models and practices to which we have grown accustomed.
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PHOTO COVID-19 has forced African universities and higher education institutions to fast-track their plans for the future, and while the challenges are considerable, a unified front – and sound strategic planning – is the best chance we have.
PHOTO Supported by University of Geneva academics, InZone has developed a community of higher education learners among the 190,000 refugees in the camp at Kakuma, Kenya, who are now trying to prepare their community for the dual threat of the pandemic and food shortages.
From online learning inequities to economic disaster, COVID-19 presents severe challenges to the African higher education system and could seriously impact future government support for the sector, but it could also bring about much-needed changes with regard to distance learning.
North African student unions and academic communities have launched several civic engagement and social responsibility initiatives, ranging from fundraising and awareness campaigns to consultancy guidance and medical initiatives, in an effort to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Student unions have appealed to the government to allow Mauritanian students in neighbouring countries to return home and have accused the Mauritanian government of relinquishing its responsibilities towards citizens stranded at the country’s borders, which shut on 22 March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Egyptian students currently based in Northern Cyprus may soon be reunited with their families following an initiative by the government of Egypt to repatriate an estimated 10 million of its citizens who are either working or studying abroad.
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PHOTO Diminished high-level research funding and fewer face-to-face conferences and collaboration – these are some of the potential consequences from the coronavirus pandemic as it affects higher education in Africa. But there may be a host of benefits too.
PHOTO Even before the Botswana government announced the closure of universities from 23 March and the subsequent “extreme lockdown”, the Botswana International University of Science and Technology had taken steps to minimise the spread of the coronavirus.
Coronavirus Crisis Africa: 30 March – 2 April
COVID-19 has effectively exposed the limitations of unilateralism. Against this backdrop, there is an impending danger that higher education may once again be sidelined as a luxury that African countries can least afford when it should continue to garner support on a priority basis to help overcome human-made problems and natural disasters.
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PHOTO Many of the African students who remained in China during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak are still unable to return home because of the lockdowns now taking effect in Africa. University World News spoke to Serufusa Sekidde, a medical doctor and a senior New Voices fellow at the Aspen Institute in the United States who studied in China and has been supporting African students in China during the COVID-19 epidemic, about the kind of assistance those students now need.
PHOTO The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted efforts by South Sudan tertiary education leaders and ministers within the newly-formed South Sudan unity government to restore the country’s universities, many of which were devastated by the years of civil war that may now have ended.
International students based in Northern Cyprus, many of whom are African, are receiving food aid packages and meals from support groups and non-governmental organisations that have teamed up with local municipalities and businesses to ensure they have enough to sustain them until the national lockdown due to COVID-19 is suspended.
Morocco’s Broadcasting and Television National Company is partnering with the Ministry of National Education, Vocational Training, Higher Education and Scientific Research to offer tele-education for students without access to the internet as universities shut down campuses to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Two telecommunication companies – MTN Rwanda and Airtel Rwanda – are offering free access to online learning materials for all students from the University of Rwanda and the Rwanda polytechnics in a move aimed at helping the higher education sector keep functioning in spite of the closure of universities and schools on 21 March.
Coronavirus Crisis Africa: 15-29 March
Protracted student protests in South Africa over the past few years gave universities an opportunity to explore online education as an alternative to contact teaching and learning, and have put them in a better position to deal with current shutdowns necessitated by the need to contain COVID-19. Here, an academic from the University of Cape Town shares her experience and that of her colleagues in the process of “going online”.
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Schools and tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe shut down on Tuesday 24 March as a precaution to contain the spread of COVID-19 after parents and other education sector stakeholders contested their continued operation.
A vice-chancellor of a private university in Ethiopia shares his experiences and lessons learned after his institution and its management urgently rallied to respond to an immediate nationwide shutdown of all educational institutions prompted by efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The foundations for e-learning are already in place in some universities in Tanzania, and it offers an effective solution to the problem of institutional shutdowns. However, a paradigm shift away from conventional teaching modes is still needed if the full potential of e-leaning is to be realised.
In the two weeks since the last edition of University World News – Africa was published on 12 March 2020, the entire face of African higher education has changed as, one-by-one, country-wide closures of schools and universities have been announced and have taken effect.
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PHOTO The Association of African Universities has called upon universities in Africa to move “urgently” to implement alternative methods of delivering teaching and learning using technology and other distance learning techniques in the wake of the closures of higher education institutions to limit the spread of COVID-19.
PHOTO As the coronavirus infections continue to spread, many African universities are galvanising their research resources and expertise to find a medical solution to the pandemic or limit its spread. But chances of a big impact in the short term are slim and greater investment in fighting pandemics in the future is required.
Northern Cyprus’s 35,000 international students, an estimated 20,000 of whom come from Africa, are finding it even harder than usual to make ends meet as a result of the measures taken by the government to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
With a lockdown in force since midnight on Saturday 21 March, Rwanda’s universities are exploring online alternatives to teaching and learning to ensure the academic year is not disrupted. The African Leadership University seems to be ahead of the pack when it comes to preparedness to take learning online.
Ten North African and 12 Arab countries are to benefit from an e-learning initiative that will facilitate open and online education during the coronavirus crisis that has led to the closure of most universities and educational institutions.
Coronavirus Crisis Africa: February to mid-March
Zimbabwean students trapped in Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, which has been in lockdown since 23 January, are receiving extra funds from their government to help them cope with their indefinite isolation.
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PHOTO The Ugandan government is to come up with a multi-sectoral plan involving the ministries of health, education and foreign affairs to ensure that Ugandan students affected by the coronavirus lockdown in Wuhan in China are assisted, but an outright evacuation plan is not yet on the cards.
PHOTO At least 350 Zimbabwean students are reportedly stuck in Wuhan, China, which has been identified as the epicentre of the coronavirus, with many of them having taken to social media platforms such as Facebook to plead for assistance amid food shortages and mental distress.