The Minister of Tertiary Education, Research Science and Technology, Dr Douglas Letsholathebe, visited the University of Botswana on June 8, 2020 to assess and appreciate its readiness and compliance with COVID-19 health protocols.
The minister was pleasantly delighted that as the country’s premier institution of higher learning, the University of Botswana’s compliance with COVID-19 health protocols was top notch. He was later taken around campus to assess and appreciate measures put in place against COVID-19.
Dr Letsholathebe said the University of Botswana had demonstrated leadership and intellectual capacity to move Botswana forward. He said he was proud that since the advent of COVID-19 the University of Botswana embarked on a number of initiatives that underpinned Botswana’s ability to manage the pandemic.
Dr Letsholathebe assured the management that he would do all he could to make sure that the University of Botswana played bigger role in the development of the country through constant engagement with government. He urged UB academics to come up with position papers on issues that could help guide the national development agenda. He further encouraged the academics to take advantage of new technologies and intensify online teaching.
Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs, Professor Happy Siphambe, briefed the minister on measures put in place to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 especially on teaching and learning. Professor Siphambe said online teaching was being accelerated and students were being provided with internet data loaded simcards to access online services even outside campus.
He added that some spaces such as the campus indoor sports centre had been configured as learning spaces in addition to the Botswana Public Service College offering a hall for teaching and learning. Regarding the teaching staff, he said they had been offered soft loans to purchase laptops for remote teaching.
Professor Siphambe noted that the plan was to have the teaching calendar finish in July ahead of the new academic year that was expected to start mid August. Chairperson of the UB COVID-19 Response Team, Dr Chilindi Maloiso, briefed the minister on processes they had embarked on to manage or combat the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
The measures include body temperature checks, registering and sanitizing everyone entering campus. Furthermore, people were required to wear masks in public spaces, observe social distancing at all times. Precautionary notices have been placed around campus especially in high-risk areas such as the student centre, library, student hostels as well as the cafeteria.
Dr Maloiso said there was also constant monitoring and surveillance besides 24hr emergency telephone line in the event there was a suspected case of COVID-19. In addition, Dr Maloiso revealed that some rooms had been reserved at the student hostels in case there was need for quarantine while the clinic was also available for isolation.
Dr Maloiso explained that international travel for staff was still suspended while areas such as the sports field and gymnasium remained closed.