AU Ramps Up COVID-19 Response

Friday, April 17, 2020 - Nashville, TN—Africa University's students, faculty and staff are harnessing institutional assets to stay safe, remain in touch and make a difference in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus. Students are connecting with the wider community, sharing reflections and urging everyone to stay the course.

Deborah Legessse is an Agribusiness major in her final year at Africa University.Deborah Legesse, an Ethiopian student, is in her final year of an undergraduate degree in Agribusiness. Supported by an Usahwira scholarship, she is due to graduate in June 2020. Deborah is one of the students who is sheltering in place on the AU campus. Click here for Deborah’s brief video about life under lockdown at the AU campus.

This week’s update on Africa University’s coronavirus mitigation response includes:

Hand sanitizer production

AU’s department of public health and nursing is partnering with the financial services group, Old Mutual Zimbabwe, to produce affordable hand sanitizing liquid. This basic and important tool in fighting the spread of COVID-19  is currently in short supply in Zimbabwe and around the world.

AU's dept. of public health and nursing has set a goal of 550 bottles of sanitizer produced per day.Old Mutual donated an estimated $14,000 on April 9 to AU's effort to help promote good  hygiene in communities where consistent access to clean water is a challenge. The gift was used to buy inputs such as ethanol, rubbing alcohol and glycerin with the aim of producing around 145 gallons of hand sanitizer per day. Public distribution of the product is set to begin on April 20. In the coming weeks, the university plans to branch out into the production of detergent and other cleaning supplies.

“I feel so good and proud to be a part of this project, said Chipo Mazangairi, a lab technician who is part of the nine-person production team.

“I see it as helping to save lives and serve the nation,” she said. “All of us here feel specially chosen to do this great work and we are raising the flag of Africa University.”

Africa University Farm

Winter wheat crop under cultivation at Africa University Farm in Zimbabwe.Deemed essential to the national wellbeing, the Africa University Farm is adapting to remain productive whilst also safeguarding workers’ health. Preparations are underway for sowing winter crops such as wheat and cabbage. The farm’s poultry unit is supplying around 170 crates of eggs per day and close to 500 dressed chickens per week to the campus and wider community. The supply of vegetables, pork and fresh and processed milk products (yogurt) is continuing at normal levels. Mindful of a lockdown order that prohibits residents from traveling more than three miles to purchase essentials, the farm launched a door-to-door delivery service in the City of Mutare and surrounding areas. Trevor Mpofu, manager of the university farm, sees it as both a privilege and a responsibility to rise to the demands of the current moment.

“We are continuing with our planting schedule, not only to keep supplying our food services unit that is feeding those students and essential services staff who are on campus, but also to ensure that post-COVID-19, we are not starting from zero,” said Mpofu. “We must remain in a position to feed our university and the province.”

Keeping Students’ Minds Engaged

Stranded students are sheltering in place at AU's main campus until borders reopen and they're allowed to travel home.Online teaching/learning and related activities have been underway for AU students and faculty for two weeks now. Some students who are learning from home have cited challenges such as unreliable network connections and electricity supply, the high cost of data and failure to balance home and school demands. However, most are adapting to the “new normal”, says Munashe Kurewhatira, an environmental studies lecturer.

“Amidst of all the anxiety, panic and all sorts of emotions during the COVID 19 pandemic, my online experience is good,” said Kurewhatira. “My greatest challenge was turning my home into an office (work-station). With kids who do not understand what is happening, it is difficult to balance work and family requirements. However, I have managed to set flexible working hours, including working in the middle of the night in order to get things done…I think this transition has placed Africa University in a great position towards achieving education 5.0. What AU needs to transition smoothly will be everyone to innovate in their spaces.”

Thank you for investing in the ministry of Africa University. Together, we are changing the narrative.

Next week, the AU update will focus on student and staff welfare and mitigating feelings of anxiety and isolation in the community.

Prepared by the AU Development Office in collaboration with the Office of Advancement and Public Affairs, based on the main campus at Old Mutare, Zimbabwe.