Cases of Covid-19 at institutions of higher learning continue to surge as the pandemic spreads across the country.
A spot check at some universities reveal that although the schools have put in place stringent measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, a number of staff and students have contracted the virus.
Moi University, for instance, has lost five staff to the disease since universities and colleges reopened for phased learning in October. These include two lecturers and three non-academic staff in the health and central services at the School of Health Science and its main campus at Kesses.
The university’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Paul Binot, disclosed that 35 Covid-19 cases had been recorded among post-graduate and undergraduate students since they resumed learning in October.
“The numbers have been climbing slowly but we’ve been quite lucky that they are still low. Most of them, (students) had mild symptoms and did not require hospitalisation. We had only one student who was admitted but has since been discharged,” Dr Binot told Higher Education.
He added, “We have had more than 20 members of staff who tested positive for Covid-19, majority of them have done well and have gone home but unfortunately we lost five of them.”
Wearing face masks
Dr Binot observed that the university introduced a number of measures that included mandatory wearing of face masks, setting up of water points and minimising the number of students in lecture halls. The university has also put up 12 isolation beds in its main campus and six beds at the School of Health Sciences.
Prof Tenge Kuremu, principal in charge of the College of Health Sciences, one of the worst affected colleges, said that doctors working at the hospital and post-graduate students were most affected by the virus, but were now stable, pointing out that a number of the older staff with co-morbidities had been admitted in hospital.
Dr Binot added that to minimize infection, the university had minimise face-to face learning and embraced online learning.
At Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, although there have been no deaths linked to Covid-19, the university has handled several cases of students who have been taken ill after presenting symptoms associated with the disease. The university has set up an isolation centre for students suspected of having been infected with the coronavirus, however, it is facing a challenge in testing students due to lack of reagents and testing kits.
To avoid the spread of infections at the institution, examinations for doctorate and master’s students were administered online. Students who are involved in practicals are allowed to learn in small groups while observing social distancing.
The acting Vice Chancellor, Prof Solomon Shibairo, said the university had put in place strict measures to ensure that the students, lecturers and workers adhere to Ministry of Health protocols and guidelines on Covid-19.
Final year students have completed their examinations and preparations are on for the 15th graduation ceremony on December 18, 2020.
“We are progressing well so far and there is no reason for panic. I think we have put in place in adequate measures and we are managing the situation well despite a few challenges,” said Prof Shibairo.
The University of Embu has set up a reopening and planning committee that will be responsible for ensuring that Covid-19 control measures are fully observed. It is chaired by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of academics, Prof Kiplagat Kotut.
“We don’t have a single case of the disease in the University but we are strictly monitoring,” he said, adding that the administration has also set up a raid response team consisting of health officials to handle Covid-19 patients. Only half of the students (first and fourth years) have reported to the university while the others are learning online.
At Tharaka University College, two students tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after reopening and were isolated at the institution’s health facility. They have since recovered.
The principal, Prof Peter Muriungi, said they are strictly adhering to Covid-19 health protocols.
The university college recently opened a health centre with female and male isolation wards.
At least two lecturers from Egerton University have died since the institution opened, but the university management and the close relatives of the deceased did not attribute the deaths to Covid-19.
Unlike in the past when students and visitors at the institution would pass through the main entrance without any restriction, one now has to have their temperature taken before being allowed access to the university.
Laikipia University has not recorded any cases of infections among its students. The Vice Chancellor, Prof Joseph Kibet Rotich, said the number of beds in hostels had been reduced, with each cubicle being reserved for two students instead of the usual four.
The rest of the students are residing in private hostels outside the university. The staff at the catering and medical departments have also undergone preliminary Covid-19 tests, with staff who showed symptoms being taken to Nyahururu Sub-County Hospital.
Reporting by Stanley Kimuge, Benson Amadala, George Munene, Alex Njeru and Francis Mureithi