Covid-19 related fatalities ravage top university
The death of sociology lecturer Ken Ouko to Covid-19 at the weekend has cast the spotlight on the University of Nairobi (UoN) as the one of the learning institutions hardest hit by the pandemic.
Yesterday, the university’s vice chancellor Prof Gitahi Kiama opened up on the extent the institution had been ravaged by the pandemic, saying that so far, it had lost five members of staff including three lecturers.
Prof Kiama said the five deaths and 27 positive cases had forced the university to put in place drastic measures to contain the pandemic including scaling down the number of staff going to the institution to just a negligible number of those who run very critical operations.
He also confirmed Arziki Restaurant, which is managed by University of Nairobi Enterprise and Services (UNES) and patronised by lecturers and other senior staff has been temporarily closed to mitigate further infections.
“When on-campus learning resumes, I would want to have all my staff and students back… I would not want to lose any more and we are providing our staff the best we can to protect them,” said Prof Kiama.
Since the pandemic struck in March, Kiama said the university’s hospital has assisted at least 27 employees but lost five of them to Covid-19.
Prof Kiama said the number includes a don who retired last year but was still considered part of the university fraternity’.
Other than the retired don, UoN has lost two lecturers, a clinical and ICT officer respectively.
Dr Ouko was admitted to the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi a few days ago after developing Covid-19 related complications and lost the battle on Saturday.
Until his death, Ouko was a senior lecturer at the Department of Sociology at the UoN.
Before his death, Dr Ouko appeared on various TV stations as a panellist to discuss issues related to family affairs and relationships.
On July 15, another academic giant, Prof Maurice Mang’oli succumbed to Covid-19.
He was a senior lecturer at the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering at UoN.
Prof Kiama described the deaths as a huge loss to the university but said the management will ensure those infected or affected are well taken care of and receive medical attention they require.
Prof Kiama dismissed the notion that the institution was the most ravaged by the pandemic, noting that it was only on the spot by virtue of its location, Nairobi, which has been the epicentre of Covid-19.
“The UoN staff and students live in communities where cases are on the rise.
That means they are not exempted from getting infected but the University Health Service is taking care of staff who test positive by giving them psychological support,” said Prof Kiama.
He also dismissed remarks that some of the staff have contracted the disease from the senior common room saying not all who are infected or have succumbed are members.
He said since the pandemic struck, a majority of those who have tested positive for coronavirus have recovered.
“Perhaps the reason why UoN seems so ravaged by the disease is because we have publicly shared information on the status of our staff, just like we receive daily updates from the Ministry of Health, we are not overwhelmed,” the VC clarified.
He added: “The very critical administration staff will continue to go to work but we have ensured they are safe and observing all the Ministry of Health protocols.”
On Campus learning
Much as the university is ready for on-campus learning, Prof Kiama said they will still have to make do with virtual learning and in very special cases where a student would require to use the library, arrangements could be made.
Prof Kiama, however, maintained that the pandemic had also helped the university to fully adopt technology.
He said most schools have administered examinations for this term and those who are to graduate will do so on September 25 as earlier planned.
“Much as we have had robust ICT infrastructure, we did not use it as we are using it now. Examinations have been done online, first years will be admitted and continue with learning virtually and graduations will follow as scheduled, as we wait for the right time to come for on-campus learning,” he said.
Even before Government postponed reopening of colleges and universities from September to January next year, Prof Kiama has been categorical that, that would not happen for UoN despite extreme measures they have put in place.