Tanzania Reopens Universities Despite COVID-19 Concerns

Students of Al-Haramain secondary school learn social studies as they attend their first day of re-opened school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on June 1, 2020. – All universities and form six, the final grade, of secondary schools have resumed after the government closed all schools on March 18, 2020, to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Ericky BONIPHACE / AFP.

 

Universities in Tanzania reopened on Monday, despite a lack of clarity on the spread of coronavirus after the government decided to stop updating figures in April.

As students entered dozens of campuses across Tanzania for the first time since mid-March, there were only cursory efforts to impose measures preventing the spread of COVID-19.

New hand-washing stations were spottily used while crowded lecture halls made a mockery of social distancing, leaving some students concerned.

“My parents were not happy to allow me back to the college, but there’s no way since it’s the government order to resume classes,” said Christopher Andrew, one of around 6,000 students at Dar es Salaam University College of Education.

In one lecture hall, a teacher admonished students after most removed their masks as they sat down.

“Next time, if you don’t wear a mask you will not get access to my class,” the lecturer warned.

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Student Aisha Abdul said it was impossible to follow hygiene guidance.

“It’s difficult to sit a metre apart because the course has a lot of students and that means the space is not enough to comply with social distancing principles,” she said.

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has consistently downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, and his government has not released official infection figures since April 29, when a total of 480 cases and 16 deaths had been recorded.

A government spokesperson said figures were not being released to avoid panic.

“Absence of data is actually my biggest worry,” said one concerned student, who did not want to be named. “If the trend shows decreasing cases then why should they worry to give us hope?”

“We are forced to believe that COVID-19 cases have dropped,” he said, adding that despite the uncertainty, “I need to finish my degree, so there’s no way I can dodge classes.”

Others, however, welcomed the reopening as a chance to see friends and get out of their homes.

“I was bored staying home. This is the moment I have been waiting for!” said Salha Juma, adding that he would “take precautions”.

The political opposition, foreign governments and activists have all criticised Tanzania for hiding information.

“It’s important we get complete and regular information so that we know the direction and can take relevant decisions,” said Onesmo Ole-Ngurumwa, national coordinator of the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition.

AFP

Reps Ask FG To Set Up N15bn COVID-19 Emergency Fund For Tertiary Institutions

A section of some members of House of Reps at plenary on May 19, 2020.

 

The House of Representatives has called on the Federal government to set up a strategic N15billion Coronavirus Emergency Fund for Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions as part of its response to the impact of the pandemic on academic, research and administrative operations.

The House made the call as part of its resolutions at plenary on Tuesday and in response to a motion moved by Hon. Steve Azaiki over the suspension of academic activities at tertiary institutions as a result of the COVID-19.

According to Azaiki, the structure of Nigeria’s university and tertiary institutions may never remain the same especially in the absence of an effective therapy or vaccine for the COVID-19 as well as mass testing and even a new strategic infusion of federal funding.

The rep member further explained that while school enrollment translates to revenue, this revenue may be cut short considering the short-term economic and social shocks of the ‘stay-at-home’ orders coupled with difficulties of containing the virus.

Azaiki further stated that there are estimates that universities and tertiary institutions will experience at least a 15% reduction in enrollment, as many students will likely decline and postpone their enrollment in the new session.

He also noted that many parents and guardians who may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic may be unable to afford tuition for their wards to continue going to school and therefore, pursuing higher education may become a thing of luxury.

Among other things, Rep Azaiki raised concerns about the need to ensure the provision of appropriate student support scheme (COVID–19 Student Emergency Grant) for those affected by the impact of the pandemic physically, economically and mentally, especially the vulnerable students’ groups e.g. persons living with disabilities, students with trauma or mental health issues, refugees or displaced persons within the tertiary education system.

He made reference to the United States, saying that the government recently provided the sum of $14.3Billion for higher education, with $12.4Billion split between emergency grants to student and money to colleges for expenses directly related to coronavirus and the disruption of campus operations, as $1Billion would be targeted at historically black colleges and universities, while $300 million will be given to colleges most affected by coronavirus.

Hon. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu, Hon. Muktar Betara Aliyu, Hon. Fred Obua, Hon. Francis Ottah Agbo, Hon. Makwe Livinus, Hon. Umana Aniekan, Hon. Olaide Adewale Akinremi, Hon. Kabiru I.Tukura, and Hon. Mahmud Abdullahi Gaya all sponsored the motion.

Consequently, the House reached a resolution, urging the Federal Government to set up a strategic N15Billion Naira Coronavirus Emergency Fund for Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions.

It also urged Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions to launch a Coronavirus Student Emergency Fund, where indigent and vulnerable students can apply for student emergency grant to assist them recover from the economic impact of the COVID–19 pandemic.

Furthermore, the House urged the Government to immediately establish an Infectious Diseases Research Institute in six selected government universities across the six geo-political zones of the country, which will be given specific research funding by the FG.

They also called on the Federal Government to empower some special universities to build the capacity to do the required testing so as to meet up with the national demand on testing due to rising number of coronavirus cases.

As the world continues to seek solutions to the COVID-19, the reps urged the Federal Government to constitute a team that will comprise of representatives of the government, academia and relevant stakeholders to undertake a study tour to Madagascar and Senegal to explore the reported progress in indigenous research into a possible cure for the virus and bring back relevant knowledge to the country.

COVID-19: Romanian Schools, Universities To Stay Shut Until September

Marian Raduna (C), gives instructions to the volunteers of “Geeks for democracy”, a Romanian NGO, before they deliver food and hygiene products to nursing homes, bought from donators financial support, as part of the civil society effort to help elderly and vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Bucharest April 25, 2020. Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP.

 

Schools, kindergartens and universities will remain closed in Romania for the rest of the academic year because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, President Klaus Iohannis said Monday, with a re-opening planned for September.

“We gave up on the idea of reopening schools. It would be impossible, for example, for students to respect social distancing rules, so we are trying to avoid major risks,” Iohannis said during a televised speech.

An exception will be made for students in the final year of primary and secondary schools who, for ten days in June, will be allowed to attend classes in order to prepare for final exams.

Over the coming months, instead of going to school students will continue to take part in distance learning programmes.

Education Minister Monica Anisie decided last week that online classes be made compulsory, a measure criticised by students’ associations.

“Hundreds of thousands of students don’t have access to digital instruments and cannot take part in online classes,” the National Council of Students said in a statement, calling the measure “discriminatory”.

READ ALSO: Turkey Detains Over 400 Over ‘Provocative’ Coronavirus Posts

Romania is one of the poorest countries in the European Union, with 38 percent of children at risk of social exclusion and poverty, according to Eurostat.

The country has so far reported 11,339 infections of the new coronavirus, and 631 deaths.

Two months after it was brought in, the country’s state of emergency will be lifted on May 15, when restrictions on movement will end, but wearing a face mask will become mandatory on public transport and in other enclosed public spaces.

AFP

Iraq On Total Lockdown Until March 28 Over Coronavirus

A father walks with his child along a deserted street during a curfew imposed as a measure to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus in Iraq’s southern city of Basra on March 21, 2020. – Basra governor announced a curfew in the southern province bordering Iran from Monday until Sunday morning. All together, more than half of the 18 Iraqi provinces announced curfews for several days in hope it could contain the new coronavirus outbreak. Hussein FALEH / AFP.

 

Iraq on Sunday imposed a total nationwide lockdown until March 28 to fight the novel coronavirus, as the number of cases grew and the death toll climbed to 20.

Most of Iraq’s 18 provinces had so far imposed their own local curfews but the new measures would include the whole of the country, according to a new decision by the government’s crisis cell.

Schools, universities and other gathering places would remain closed, as would the country’s multiple international airports, it said in a statement seen by AFP.

Many had feared a potential influx of cases from neighbouring Iran, where 1,685 people have died after contracting the COVID-19 respiratory illness, according to the latest official toll Sunday.

Iraq first shut its 1,500-kilometre border with Iran about a month ago and deployed troops to enforce the decision.

It has logged a total of 233 coronavirus cases and recorded 20 deaths, but there are concerns that many more are going undetected as only 2,000 people of the country’s 40-million population have been tested so far.

Authorities have struggled to enforce previous curfews.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims turned out in Baghdad and other cities in the south of the country to commemorate the death of a revered Muslim imam.

READ ALSO: Emirates To Suspend All Passenger Flights From March 25

And Moqtada Sadr, a populist cleric with a cult-like following, has continued to hold mass prayers in his hometown of Kufa south of Baghdad and in the capital’s densely-populated Sadr City.

Health Minister Jaafar Allawi sent Sadr a personal letter in a bid to convince him to call off his weekly prayers, which present an enormous contamination risk.

Allawi has expressed fears that a wider outbreak would overwhelm the country’s health system, which already faces shortages in equipment, medicine and staff after decades of conflict and little investment by national authorities.

Last week, he said he had not been granted his request for $5 million in emergency funds from the federal government.

Iraq is OPEC’s second-biggest crude producer, and falling oil prices have put the country in a bind as more than 90 percent of its state budget is funded by oil revenues.

AFP

Coronavirus: Ghana Closes Schools, Bans Gatherings

 

Ghana on Monday closed all schools and universities and suspended public events to stop the spread of coronavirus as a string of African nations imposed tighter restrictions to stem the spread of the global pandemic.

President Nana Akufo-Addo announced in an address to the West African nation that the authorities were shutting schools and universities “until further notice”.

Public gatherings — including conferences, religious services, sports matches and political rallies — have also been suspended for four weeks, he said.

Ghana on Sunday announced it would start barring entry to the country from Tuesday for any non-Ghanaian citizen or resident “who, within the last 14 days, has been to a country that has recorded at least 200 cases”.

READ ALSO: PHOTOS: Blast Wreaks Havoc In Lagos Community

The move came as the authorities reported a rise in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 from two to six, with the new cases all arrivals from abroad.

Numerous nations in sub-Saharan Africa — including Senegal, Kenya and South Africa — have begun imposing entry restrictions or closing schools as the continent scrambles to halt the spread of the virus.

AFP

Coronavirus: Italy Closes Schools As Death Toll Rises To 107

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte (L) and Italy’s Public Education Minister Lucia Azzolina speak during a press conference held at Rome’s Chigi Palace, following the Ministers cabinet meeting dedicated to the coronavirus crisis, on March 4, 2020. – Italy closed all schools and universities until March 15 to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus crisis. The government decision was announced moments after health officials said the death toll from COVID-19 had jumped to 107 and the number of cases had passed 3,000. Tiziana FABI / AFP.

 

Italy on Wednesday closed all schools and universities until March 15 as the number of deaths from the new coronavirus in the Mediterranean country hit 107.

The measure is the most restrictive response to COVID-19 of any European nation and tougher than the closure of schools — but not universities — taken by fellow Group of Seven (G7) member Japan.

Italy reported 28 more deaths on Wednesday, the highest single day total to date. The nation of 60 million people has now recorded over 3,000 cases and only trails China in terms of total fatalities.

Other measures discussed by top ministers and reported by Italian media include what promises to be an unpopular plan to play all football matches without fans for a month.

Italy has borne the brunt in Europe of a disease that is now spreading across the world faster than it is in the central Chinese region where it was first detected late last year.

The problem for the Italian government is that existing restrictions — including quarantine of 11 towns with 50,000 people in the north — have failed to stop the outbreak.

The overwhelming majority of the fatalities have occurred in Milan’s Lombardy region and the neighbouring northern area around the cities of Bologna and Venice.

But 21 of the 22 regions have now had cases and infections are slowly reaching Italy’s less wealthy and developed south.

The government reported the first death south of Rome on Wednesday. It came in the Puglia region that surrounds the city of Bari in the heel of the Italian boot on the map.

Top government minister spent hours huddling Wednesday to chart a way out of a health crisis that threatens to tip Italy’s wheezing economy into recession and overwhelm hospitals.

Most of the steps being considered involve ways to avoid crowds and keep people from coming in contact with each other outdoors.

– Crowd control –

Media reports said people will be advised to stay at least a metre (three feet) apart and to avoid crowded places whenever possible.

The traditional greetings of kissing on the cheeks or shaking hands are strongly discouraged.

Exhibits and shows are set to be rescheduled — a measure that will be especially painful for Italy’s already hard-hit hotel and restaurant industry.

Some of the government’s more mundane and common-sense measures include instructions to cough and sneeze in a handkerchief to avoid hands coming in contact with “respiratory secretions”.

Italians will also be urged to avoid sharing bottles and not to drink from the same cups and glasses.

The crowd-control measures will most directly affect football matches and could cause the most resentment in the sports-mad nation.

Italy’s Serie A has already been thrown into disarray by two weeks of postponements that have seen some clubs not play at all and others play multiple matches in a week.

Fans will even be prohibited from attending the training sessions of top teams such as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus in Turin.

The government will also recommend to those over 75 to stay indoors and to avoid public places. The advice extends to those who are at least 65 and suffer from other ailments.

A top civil protection official told AFP that most of those who have died in the past few days were in their 80s and 90s and were already suffering from other pathologies.

All these measures are meant to stay in place for a month and be reviewed and possibly fine-tuned after two weeks.

AFP

About 100 Fake Professors Uncovered In Nigerian Universities – NUC

NUC, NTI

 

The National Universities Commission (NUC) says it has uncovered about 100 fake professors in universities across the country.

This was credited to the Executive Secretary of NUC, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, in a bulletin published by the commission in November.

Professor Rasheed made the disclosure at the annual retreats for Vice-Chancellors of all universities in the country which held between October 28 and November 5 at the NUC Headquarters in Abuja.

He explained that the fake professors’ details were posted on the commission’s website, forcing it to send the names to the various universities for verification.

The NUC scribe urged the vice-chancellors to delegate desk officers to check the list of professors in their respective universities before uploading the same on the provided website.

He, however, commended them for their cooperation with the NUC Strategy Advisory Committee (STRADVCOM) which published the Directory of Full Professors in the Nigeria University System (NUS and Statistical Digest of the NUS 2017-2018, among others.

Professor Rasheed announced that the updated version of those documents would be published by December 2019, adding that the essence was to make the NUS very visible both locally and internationally.

He gave assurance that the statistical digest would be updated every first quarter of the year.

Stressing that the fight against fake professors was a collective responsibility, he asked the vice-chancellors to make sure they have accurate statistics of staff, students, and other components in their respective universities off-hand.

He revealed that a lot of anomalies were found in private universities, including the issue of someone who had barely taught for two years being awarded professorship.

Consequently, the NUC scribe appealed to the vice-chancellors to notify the commission about any fake professor in their respective universities and their environs.

He thanked them for compelling professors in the irrespective universities to upload their curricula vitae on the website which was used in the compilation of the directory of full professors in the Nigeria University System (NUS) and had helped in identifying the fake professors.

The retreat was organised in three separate meetings with federal, state and private universities’ vice-chancellors respectively.

It was aimed at rubbing minds with the university bosses on their responsibilities in the NUS, as well as discussing their challenges with a view to addressing and finding solutions to them.

The NUC scribe assured vice-chancellors of federal universities that the government would continue to ensure that technocrats and elder statesmen were appointed as Chairmen and Pro-Chancellors of Governing Councils of federal universities.

Strike: FG Meets With ASUU Again

The Federal Government is currently holding a meeting with members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over the nationwide strike by members of the union.

ASUU had gone on strike, August 14, after the National President of the union, Dr Biodun Ogunyemi, made the announcement, at a meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of ASUU shutting down all academic activities in all institutions nationwide.

This has led to a total shutdown academic activities in all institutions nationwide.

The last conciliation meeting with the striking lecturers was held on September 8, 2017 when ASUU promised to bring the decisions of its members on the new offers from the FG to the minister of labour.

The Minister of Labour, Chris Nigige before the meeting said he hopes that the meeting will put finishing touches to the grey areas, and the strike called off.

FG Weeds Out Over 15,000 Ghost Pensioners

FG Weeds Out Over 15,000 Ghost PensionersThe Federal Government has uncovered over 15,000 ghost pensioners from its payroll, hence saving over 300 million Naira on a monthly basis.

The Executive Secretary of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor, disclosed this on Tuesday while addressing reporters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Mrs Ikeazor noted that the directorate is conducting a verification exercise for pensioners across the country.

She expressed optimism that more will be weeded out when the exercise is concluded in the South-west region in July 2017.

The Executive Secretary further revealed that the agency is working with the Ministry of Finance to recover over 19 billion Naira legacy funds in the custody of insurance companies from Ministries, Department and Agencies, as well as universities and colleges of education.

FEC Approves Eight Universities, Port Harcourt Airport Renovation

FEC, Federal Executive Council, Universities, AirportThe Federal Executive Council has approved the establishment of eight new universities in Nigeria.

The Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Anwuka, disclosed this to State House correspondents shortly after the council meeting.

The meeting took place on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Professor Anwuka enumerated the universities to include:

  •  Anchor University, Ayobo, Lagos owned by the Deeper Christian Life Ministry.
  •  Arthur Jarvis University, Akpabuyo, Cross River to run by the Clitter House Nigeria Limited.
  •  Clifford University, Owerrinta, Abia to also be run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church.
  •  Coal City University, Enugu owned by the African Thinkers Community of Inquiry College of Education, Enugu.
  •  Crown-Hill University, Eiyenkorin, Kwara to be run by the Modern Morgy and Sons Limited.
  •  Dominican University, Ibadan owned by the Order of Preachers, Nigerian Dominican Community.
  •  Kola Daisi University, Ibadan owned by Kola Daisi Foundation.
  • Legacy University, Okija to be run by the Good Idea Education Foundation.

In a related development, the Council also approved the completion of the renovation work at the Port Harcourt International Airport in Rivers State, south-south Nigeria.

The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, stressed the importance of the airport to national economy.

He added that the meeting resolved that the airport cannot be allowed to remain in its poor condition.

Insurgency: Shettima Extols Borno Residents’ Courage

Borno Governor Kashim Shettima UIMAIDGovernor Kashim Shettima says the residents of Borno State in northeast Nigeria have earned the respect of the world.

Governor Shettima made the statement during the 22nd convocation ceremony of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) held in the state capital.

The Governor also commended both staff and students of the University for their courage, despite the security challenges in Borno State.

“The people of Borno and anyone living in Maiduguri, including the students of this university have earned the respect of the world.

“To live in the circumstances under which you lived in the past few years with bombings and shootings and insecurity, and to have the courage to continue to come and teach and learn, and continue with your lives is indeed a remarkable achievement for any people,” he said.

Governor Shettima and his Niger State counterpart, Abubakar Bello, who are both alumni of UNIMAID, renewed the hopes of undergraduates and the newly inducted alumni from their personal experiences.

The Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Professor Julius Okojie, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, urged Nigerian universities to intensify research.

In his speech, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Ibrahim Njodi, appealed for sustained support and funding of the institution to improve learning standards.

The university also conferred honorary degrees on the Chancellor of the University, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, and Professor Russel Galen while former Head of State, late General Murtala Mohammed, bagged a posthumous Doctor of Laws award.

In acceptance remark, the Emir of Kano saluted the courage of the new graduates and the university community for defying insecurity threat to pursue their goals.

The University is graduating a total of 37,259 students spread across five sets of 2009/2010 and 2014/2015 academic sessions from 12 colleges and faculties, distance learning centre and 23 affiliated colleges. In all 172 students obtained first class degrees.

According to officials, UNIMAID’s 22nd combined convocation was a fallout of the improved security situation in Borno State.

The 21st convocation ceremony was held in October 2010 as the university could not hold any convocation due to the lingering security challenge in the region.

FEC Approves Two New Universities, Swears In Two Federal Commissioners

Universities The Federal Executive Council in Nigeria has approved two new private universities. They are the Edwin Clerk University in Delta State and the Hezekia University in Umudim, Imo State.

Also on Wednesday, President Goodluck Jonathan swore in two new Federal Commissioners to man the Civil Service and Federal Character Commissions.

Briefing reporters after the council meeting, the Minister of Information Patricia Akwashiki and Minister of National Planning, Mr Abubakar Sulaiman, said that the Federal Government, under Goodluck Jonathan, is still fully in charge and would not tolerate any paralleled government by the incoming administration of General Mohammadu Buhari.

The council meeting started with the swearing in of the two new commissioners, Ambassador Toye Olofuntoyi, who is the commissioner in the Civil Service Commission while Ambassador Abdullahi Shinkaffi is the Commissioner in the Federal Character Commission.

The Federal Executive Council said it considered as uncharitable some of the utterances said to be coming from Buhari’s party as efforts are being made to ensure a smooth transition programme on May 29.

The Council maintained that whatever was the outcome of the election should be in the national interest of Nigerians and how to enhance and promote it at all times.