UCU set to reopen for online eLearning on Sept 15
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/09/ucu-set-to-reopen-for-online-elearning-on-sept-15/
(NOTE: At the time this was written, the Ugandan government agreed to allow medical school students only to return to in-person education. There were unconfirmed rumors that physical delivery could be allowed for all schools by the end of September. If permitted, this could impact the UCU plan as outlined in this story.)
By John Semakula
Uganda Christian University (UCU) students, who missed their end of Easter Semester (January-May) examinations because of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown, have cause to smile. According the office of the UCU Vice-Chancellor, the students can take the Easter Semester examinations from September 15 to October 15.
“These will be done as take-home examinations, as it is the practice in universities all over the world,” read a statement from the VCs office dated September 4, adding, “Teaching for the Trinity (normally starting in May) and Advent (normally starting in September) semesters will commence on October 15.”
Students enrolled within UCU for the first semester of this calendar year missed their examinations when all the academic institutions in the country were closed on March 20 as part of a government-imposed, country lockdown to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. These students were mostly completed with their studies except for their final semester examinations. At that time, and despite UCU’s readiness to conduct on-line learning and administer take-home exams, the University’s efforts were denied by President Yoweri Museveni on grounds that the process would discriminate against individuals from poor families.
In early September, UCU had that approval, including from the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) that conducted an early August inspection. According to a letter dated August 26 and signed by the outgoing Vice-chancellor, Dr. John Senyonyi, after assessing UCU’s capacity to undertake online distance eLearning, the NCHE gave the University a green light to resume teaching virtually.
NCHE also cleared the University’s School of Medicine and the newly named School of Dentistry to continue operations after an inspection by the regulatory body conducted on August 10. Early this year, the NCHE had raised some concerns about the standards of most medical schools in the country, including the medical schools at UCU and Makerere University, and asked the institutions to improve or be denied a chance to offer the courses.
In a letter dated August 28, NCHE’s Executive Director, Prof. Mary J.N. Okwakol, noted that UCU’s medical and dental programs met the minimum requirements for the training of medical doctors and dental surgeons within the East African Community (EAC) as set out in the guidelines.
“Upon qualifications, therefore, the graduates shall be eligible for reciprocal recognition within the EAC partner states,” she wrote. “The University may admit students to the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery and Bachelor of Dentistry programmes, ensuring adherence to the recommended number of students for each programme.”
In his August 26 letter to UCU staff, Dr. Senyonyi commended those who worked hard to ensure that both assessments were successful. He said he was sincerely indebted to them.
The University has since advertised vacancies for first year students who would wish to take those science courses advising them to apply via online for the courses.
The new Vice-Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, also confirmed NCHE’s clearance for UCU to continue teaching in a letter to staff dated September 4. He also revealed that the University Senate had as a result of the clearance by NCHE met on September 2 and passed several resolutions to pave way for the University to reopen for online distance eLearning.
Key among the resolutions, which Senate passed, was that the University would hold a virtual graduation – a first for UCU – for those students who will have finished their studies. The ceremony is scheduled for December 18, 2020.
Also important to note is that students who are supposed to be in session for both the Trinity (May-August) and Advent (September- December) semesters will first complete the Trinity Semester. To have access to inexpensive Internet services for online learning and while tuition costs are in discussion, the deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic Affairs, Dr. John Kitayimbwa, advised students to buy MTN cell phone sim cards to access Internet hotspots.
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