By Oumar Dembélé
At the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, the country’s largest higher education institution, the president and the director of the University Student Services Centre (COUS) were to hold a joint press conference on Thursday to set the terms of the reopening but it was postponed.
The idea of resuming classes does not seem to be shared by the Coordination of Students’ Associations.
Speaking to journalists the day before, the COUS director, who claims to defend the students’ best interests denounced the “resumption plan adopted unilaterally.”
As a partisan for the “mass resumption” of teaching at UCAD, she campaigned “for a rescue of the year and the continuity of educational activities.”
For its part, the Autonomous Union of Higher Education Teachers (SAES) denounced its non-involvement by the supervisory minister and demanded that their demands are met to avoid “a death of the universities.”
But in a press conference finally held on Friday, UCAD authorities gave pledges for the resumption of teaching and learning on September 1.
Following the example of other universities in the country closed for more than five months to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, the University of Dakar has decided its resumption plan for Tuesday.
The 78,500 students will be divided into three groups which will follow one another from Tuesday until December 31, 2020.
According to president Ahmadou Aly Mbaye, some will follow e-learning courses where others will do so in a classroom environment following a rotation by cohorts and levels, both on the social and pedagogical campus.
“From September 1 to October 15, for Bachelor and Masters 1 students, this first cohort constitutes a total of 19,517 students. From October 15 to November 15 for Bachelor 2 and Masters 2 students, a second cohort with a total of 20,348 students. From November 15 to December 31, for Bachelor 1 students who make up the third and final cohort with a total of 31,700 students,” he said.
On the social aspect, COUD announced the implementation of a health protocol which goes from the application of physical distancing gestures to special measures.
Director Abdoulaye Sow also stressed that the student unions have been involved in the process of drawing up the protocols of the COUD's different departments.
“Instead of having 71,000 or more students, we will have a maximum of 19,000 students over the 45 days. This will substantially relieve our restaurants. But, in addition to this number, there will be a support and supervision system in order to comply with the barrier measures,” he explained.
He pointed out that the students of the Faculty of Medicine are involved in prevention and health care.
The resumption is also taking shape in universities in the interior of the country.
This is the case at the University of Sine Saloum Elhadji Ibrahim Niass of Kaolack (centre) where face-to-face teaching will resume on September 7 in “compliance with the rules issued by the health authorities.”
This seems to be on the way at the Alioune-Diop University of Bambey (centre-west).
The social campus said it is ready to welcome a first cohort of students next Tuesday.
However, the president of the coordination of students deplored the gradual start of the school year proposed by the health committee and approved by the educational authorities, because it “does not suit his comrades enough”.
Higher education institutions are responsible for deciding autonomously on the levels of convocation of students.
Last May, the Minister of Higher Education had vowed the availability of the state to “accompany the authorities in the implementation of adequate measures to avoid a blank year and finish the year by 31 January 2021 at the latest.”