UCU e-learning status amidst COVID-19 environment
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/04/ucu-e-learning-status-amidst-covid-19-environment/
By Douglas Olum
“A 21st century university isn’t just brick and mortar. It’s evolutionary, novel, re-engineering processes, emergent, have value laden solutions beyond geographical borders in complex times like these. A commendation is befitting,” Godfrey Sempungu, the Associate Dean of the Uganda Christian University (UCU), Faculty of Business and Administration, posted in an April 2, 2020, Tweet.
His post came only days after parliamentarian, Gilbert Olanya, proclaimed before the Parliament of Uganda, during a sitting in which UCU’s digital migration was discussed, that the university based in Mukono is one of the best.
“We thank the UCU for being one of the best universities in East Africa,” Mr. Olanya said, alluding, in part, to use of technology.
On Friday March 20, UCU, like all other educational institutions in Uganda, sent home its more than 5,000 main campus students as well as regional campus students following a presidential directive instructing all schools and academic institutions in the country to go on a 30-day shutdown because of the globally threatening COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, Uganda had not yet recorded a single case of the viral disease. But all her neighbors, including Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan had already recorded cases of the disease.
The shutdown came just three weeks before students could kick-start their end of the Easter Semester examinations. Amidst the unanticipated interruption, UCU quickly shifted to its digital learning platform to continue assessing as well as to examine students in a bid to counter the eventuality of physical exodus from campuses. This on-line alternative was curtailed on April 4 when Janet Museveni, minister of education, suspended this option.
The UCU Vice Chancellor, Rev. Dr. John Senyonyi, who previously applauded university staff for adaptability in the midst of the pandemic, issued, in part, this statement on Palm Sunday, April 5, 2020:
“In compliance with the Minister’s directive, I must regretfully inform you that we shall not issue you with the examinations as we had intended. We realize that many of you have been preparing for these examinations. Besides, over 90% of you had registered your phone numbers or other contact information to receive the examinations from the University; and the number was still rising. This means that you will have to sit for these examinations upon resumption of normal University programs.”
Uganda registered her first case of the Coronavirus disease on March 22 with a 30-year-old businessman who returned from a trip in Dubai (United Arabs Emirates). The number has since grown to 53 (April 8, 2020), with the majority of the cases being of returnees from other countries, including China, India and Europe.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni consequently banned all forms of public gatherings including church services, monthly market days, political rallies, clubs and large wedding events. He also has banned all public transportation and limited private vehicle use to curb the possible spread of COVID-19.
The UCU Vice Chancellor further clarified in an April 9, 2020, memo:
“As I said earlier, our plan for the Take Home exam was conceived in good faith and we had the best of intentions for our students. It has never crossed our minds and we never did anything intentionally to disobey Government at such a critical time. Despite the current situation in the country, we believed that through available technological facilities at UCU, students would be able to complete their semester with minimal interruption. We considered that we should fully support Government efforts to decongest, and in that spirit, we judged that the use of technology was safe for our students since they would be doing the exams in the comfort of their homes.”
The Rev. Dr. John Senyonyi further stated in that memo, in part, that “Uganda Christian University is a law-abiding institution which cannot act contrary to the directives of our line ministry or of the Government. I request you to remain calm and commit everything to the Risen LORD.”
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