The students’ leadership on Sunday demanded that all students be recalled for face-to-face learning, arguing that it was irrational to keep students at home after the President lifted lockdown.
Nelson Kiva
Journalist @New Vision

EDUCATION | MAKERERE | STUDENTS GUILD

KAMPALA - Makerere University guild council has rejected the idea of continued blended teaching and learning after full reopening of the economy. 

The university like many others including Kyambogo adopted a blended arrangement after the reopening of universities and other higher learning institutions to curtail the spread of COVID-19 by regulating crowds. 

The students’ leadership on Sunday demanded that all students be recalled for face-to-face learning, arguing that it was irrational to keep students at home after the President’s pronouncement lifting all the lockdown measures. 

“Going forward, no more negotiations with the administration. We have had enough engagements and we are saying by February 5, all students should physically report to the university,” Makerere guild president Shamim Nambassa said.

Nambassa told reporters at a press conference convened at Lumumba Hall on Sunday that whereas the staggered system of learning was instrumental in enabling continued learning at the time COVID-19, more especially as the second phase peaked, it was at a cost. 

“We are more than convinced that as students, we compromised a lot and it is high time we embraced the normal studying module before we lose it all,” she said. 

Per the communication from the vice-chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, the academic year 2021/2022 opened on Saturday with one week of orientation for the freshers. 

The continuing students will report on Friday in a staggered manner. 

“We have received several inquiries from students and other stakeholders regarding the decision to proceed with the blended teaching and learning mode of teaching after the economy has been fully opened. 

It should be noted that the decision to continue with the blended mode of teaching and learning was taken before the full opening of the economy and all arrangements for the first semester were made against this background,” Nawangwe said.

However, the guild has rubbished reports by the university administration that only 20% of the students have been vaccinated. 

Nambassa disclosed that according to their own study, over 70% of students have been vaccinated and many more were getting vaccinated every day. 

According to the circular issued by the academic registrar, it is only the first-year students, health and veterinary sciences programmes, all architecture, engineering and agriculture programmes plus masters’ students (except MPH distance and other distance graduate programmes) who will be required to physically attend lectures for five weeks and others continue to learn online.

Their argument against blended learning, Nambassa said originates from the fact that some lecturers are too lazy to teach virtually and instead wait for physical period to teach what they would have taught in 17 weeks in only two weeks. 

“There is financial distress in that on top of the functional fees, students incur high data costs to attend lectures virtually and high transport costs to and from the university campus for discussions, physical lectures and practicals,” the guild speaker Gatuya Mucyo said. 

Samuel Ssemankabanya, who represents students with disability on the guild, disclosed that virtual learning disqualifies some categories of those with disability since there are no provisions such as the talkback systems for the visually impaired. 

“We have written letters to the administration on the issues of the students with disability but they are yet to respond apart from telling us to mobilise them for vaccination,” Ssemankabanya said. 

He said they have since ensured that most of them are vaccinated and that at least 95% of them have been vaccinated. 

University management speaks out 

The vice-chancellor, Makerere University, Barnabas Nawangwe, went on to elaborate that the surge in Omicron variant cases and yet not all the students and members of staff were vaccinated, justified the need to continue with the blended teaching and learning arrangement. 

Nawangwe went on to argue that blended teaching and learning using open distance e-learning (ODeL) was a policy shift approved way back in 2015 as the most appropriate mode of teaching and learning in the modern higher education provision. “The university considers the health and safety of our students and staff as priority number one. 

There is nothing more valuable than life. After losing four senior members of staff to COVID-19, we must be very cautious. We are working out a roadmap for possible full opening of the university in the shortest possible time, hopefully by the second semester. Meanwhile, we will continue with blended learning,” Nawangwe said.

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