When Covid-19 broke out in March last year, the lockdown was implemented as one of the measures to control the further spread of the virus and all educational institutions were closed down including higher educational institutions which left thousands of students stranded.
However, Uganda’s leading education hub, Victoria university devised several means of ensuring continuity in learning despite the lockdown and other several challenges that came along with the pandemic.
Dr. Lawrence Muganga, the vice-chancellor of Victoria University noted that the uncertainty about the reopening of educational institutions can be removed by the concerted effort by the government to vaccinate as many people as they can.
Muganga said that the government through universities should improvise and support technology-enabled education to avoid uncertainty because if education is not made pandemic-proof, the country is bound to continue suffering.
According to Muganga, Victoria university’s calendar has been significantly affected as there are some things they needed to do physically and these have been removed from the calendar.
Muganga further revealed that the University had been advocating for online education even before lockdown.
“The pandemic has made us think like we are supposed to think in the 21st Century. We rolled out the V-Class, a state-of-the-art learning management system to cater for students not only in Uganda but across Africa to ensure continuity of learning,” Muganga said in an interview with Daily Express.
Offering Students Free data
While as many students are stuck with no data to keep online, Victoria University provides free educational data, learning and assessment have been online and even their students managed to do their exams.
Dr. Muganga explains that their V-Class Learning Management System has examination integrity software that helps them assess and supervise students from wherever they are.
“We struck a partnership with Airtel Uganda to get data we provide to all our students for free. This is an offer to all students and lecturers at Victoria University for the next eight months. This was the only way we had to chip in to ensure continuity of learning by supporting parents and those students who pay for themselves. All they have to do is to get the device and we provide the data,” he said
”These unprecedented times call for universities to give back on what they have made over time to students so that they build human capital and avoid dropouts” he added.
Bursaries and tuition reductions
When Victoria University released that the pandemic had hit the country’s economy, they announced full scholarships for five disadvantaged Ugandans who joined this year’s academic intake began on March 1.
Among the beneficiaries of the scholarships was David Siya, a traffic police officer attached to the Central Police Station, Sylvester Lulenzi a second-hand clothes vendor from Jinja, Moses Ssemitego from Kalungu all won fully paid scholarships. The other two slots were reserved for girls and went to Feddy Akello and Swabrah Mbawomye.
In February 2021, the institution also slashed tuition fees to help ease financial pressure on students and their families sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. The 50 percent reduction was made to cater for the new entrants.
Muganga said all these initiatives will be kept in place for the next three years because they do not know when the pandemic will end.
“We shall even give more bursaries where possible for students to come to school in a bid to limit dropouts. I encourage other institutions to move beyond the profits and look at the future,” he said.