By: Elom Iyke Ubochi
SA to VC on Documentation
The world has been on her knees, since the first quarter of 2020, because of the raging effect of the corona virus pandemic. Most countries are facing economic recession of major proportion with its concomitant effect of job losses, hyper inflation and poor revenue. The immediate consequences are increase in hunger and poverty at individual levels, as well as the inability of governments and corporate bodies to meet their financial obligations.
On the education front, the COVID-19 pandemic which was first announced in Wuhan, China on November 17, 2019, and in Nigeria on February 27th, 2020 has led to serious hiatus in academic activities. In Nigeria, for instance, schools have been shut since March 2020, and it has been opined that if they are not reopened by the end of this month, August, the possible conclusion of the 2019/2020 academic session will be jeopardized. As the spike in infection continues to rise in the country, policy makers are at a quagmire on how best to re-tool the school system without putting the lives of students and teachers in danger. Trying to balance the delicate issues of life and economy, and opening of schools has been an uphill task for government and other stakeholders at all levels.
However, in spite of the precarious situation in which educational institutions in Nigeria have found themselves because of the pandemic, Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi state has sustained her developmental strides on many fronts. Employing one of its three core mandates – research, the University engaged a team of scientists and researchers led by the Dean, Faculty of Science, Prof. Omaka N. Omaka to investigate on possible ways of arresting the malaise caused by the corona virus pandemic. As part of its work which is still ongoing, the team has produced authentic alcohol-based hand sanitizers. The Department of Fine and Applied Arts in its work also produced well-crafted cotton-based face masks. In fact, the University was one of the first government institutions to champion the production of locally-made hand sanitizers and cloth-based face mask to mitigate their cost which was on the increase at the inception of the pandemic. Through the production of the AE-FUNAI hand sanitizers and face masks, other private individuals and organizations in Ebonyi State keyed into the business. This created jobs and generated incomes for the people in a time of serious economic lockdown. Using 3D printing equipment and facilities assigned to the University’s Centre for Adaptive Research and Fabrication, and collaborating remotely with Steinbeis Consulting Center (IMAPS Institute for Material Applications & 3D Printing Solutions), Karlsruhe, Germany, Miss Chiaka Nnodum of Fine and Applied Arts department designed and produced 3D-printed face masks for some members of University Management.
In the spirit of community service, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba, on May 20, 2020, donated 200 bottles of AE-FUNAI hand sanitizers and one hundred thousand Naira to the Ebonyi State government in support of the fight against COVID-19 in the State. These products (sanitizers and face masks) of the University are being patronized and used by members of the university community and other publics; they will, no doubt, be helpful in curtailing the highly infectious virus when academic activities resume. Also, the Vice-Chancellor had on March 13, 2020, before the Federal Government announced the closure of schools constituted a Committee on COVID-19, Lassa fever and other infectious diseases in the University. The Committee was, among other things, charged with the responsibility of enlightening members of the University community on the dangers and remedies to infectious diseases. In the course of their work, the Committee has provided veronica buckets with running water and disinfectant at strategic places around the campus, thus promoting the culture of hand washing among staff and students of the University.
The University remains one of the few public higher institutions in Nigeria that concluded her first semester 2019/2020 academic session before the Federal Government ordered the closure of schools in Nigeria. In fact, AE-FUNAI concluded her admission process for the 2019/20 academic session on 24th January, 2020 when it held her matriculation ceremony for freshmen. While many Universities in Nigeria were still struggling with their admission process for the 2019/2020 academic session and others were yet to resume for 1st term of 2019/2020 session before the unplanned closure, AE-FUNAI had already concluded the first semester of the 2019/20 session on Saturday, 29th February, 2020 and academic activities were scheduled to resume for the second semester on Monday, 30th March, 2020 before the Covid-19 hiatus.
The commitment of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Nwajiuba to the University academic calendar has been the magic wand. Since his assumption of office in 2016, AE-FUNAI has maintained her academic calendar, resuming for new sessions in October of every year and concluding in July of the next year. This has ensured that students graduate on schedule and are mobilized for the National Youth Service Corp programme in the year of their graduation.
While staff and students were away due to the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, the University was turned into a massive construction site. Ongoing projects that are nearing completion include: Faculty of Education buildings, Faculty of Management and Social Sciences buildings, new senate building, 2nd phase of the College of Medicine building, 2nd phase of Postgraduate School building, Arts Theater, Igbo centre building, water project and inter campus link road and many others are still springing up at different areas of the campus. The Vice-Chancellor, who had vowed never to rest on his oars until the last day of his stewardship, has in spite of the lockdown, been coming to work, traversing every length and breadth of the campus, and monitoring on-going projects in the University. This is to ensure that contractors meet up with the scheduled time for projects completion and more importantly, to ensure that quality is not compromised.
Due to this single-mindedness of purpose, the University presently is wearing new look with many newly completed and soon-to-be-completed projects on campus. In fact, on Monday, 27th July, 2020, the Vice-Chancellor in company of other members of the University Management inaugurated a new building for the Faculty of Law. Other completed projects include the University demonstration school, which students in the Faculty of Education will use for their teaching practice. A bridge has also been completed, linking the back gate to Zone B part of the campus and walk-ways completed around the Faculty of Science, Centre for Entrepreneurship and Employability and NEEDS Assessment building. With this litany of new projects, staff and students will surely be in awe on resumption of work and academic activities because of the massive improvement in the environment
As the lockdown continued, the Vice-Chancellor also took time to visit the General Hospital, Ebouwana, Afikpo South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, to assess the spate of work. The hospital is one of the Centres approved for the community medicine of the University’s MBBS programme. All these activities were geared towards ensuring that the University hit the ground running immediately the Federal Government lifts embargo on school resumption.
Being an environmentalist and one of the negotiators for Nigeria on climate change, Prof. Nwajiuba has continued to implement his vision of ensuring that AE-FUNAI becomes one of the most beautiful and eco-friendly Universities in Nigeria by leading the charge on a yearly tree planting campaign in the University where over 20,500 trees and flowers have been planted in the past 4 years. To maintain this yearly university tradition, the Vice-Chancellor led other members of Management to plant some tress on Monday, 27th July, 2020 at the back gate. His goal of making AE-FUNAI a University in a garden is gradually coming to fruition, with different shades of trees planted in different parts of the campus growing to maturity.