16 May, 2020

Profesor Kanyama-Phiri: As one way of complying with social distancing, postgraduate students are continuing with course modules through on-line learning,
The Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) says it is pursuing numerous strategies to overcome shocks emanating from the global coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.

Speaking during the second public dialogue conducted online on the topic of Global and Continental Partnerships and Collaboration in Higher Education Post Covid-19by African for African Partnership (AAP), Vice Chancellor for the University Professor George Yobe Kanyama Phiri said the challenges that the University is encountering include weak Information Communication and Technology (ICT) infrastructure; lack of hard and software limiting teaching the undergraduate students at their homes; insufficient laptops for students and absence of conducive environment for electronic learning mode of communication; and dilemma of keeping international students in the country until reopening of the university.

But Professor Phiri said the University has come up with a number of interventions to address the challenges including production of hand sanitisers and switching to Open and Distance Learning (ODL).

He said; “We have assigned our Basic Science Department to be producing hand sanitizers which area recommended preventive measure against the spread of the virus.”

“As one way of complying with social distancing, postgraduate students are continuing with course modules through on-line learning, research supervision thesis presentation, open-air presentation and defence.”

Meanwhile, LUANAR in collaboration with other African Universities within the AAP have formed partnerships to develop technological interventions in light of the pandemic.

For instance, Makerere University of Uganda has provided online lecturers for the Veterinary Programme while University of Nigeria has been approached to provide the experienced Dean of Veterinary Medicine programme.
On the other hand, Dr. Fans Swanepoel from the University of Pretoria in Republic of South Africa (RSA) undertook the task of reviewing the LUANAR’s curricula.

“LUANAR is also collaborating with the Regional University Forum (RUFORUM) in Capacity Building of University institutions across the African Continent. On top of that our University has enjoyed more than four decades of research collaboration with Michigan State University-new varieties,” Phiri said.

In partnership with private sector, Phiri said LUANAR has enjoyed evergreen relationship for continued delivery of programmes in light of the Covid-19 pandemic with a number of companies including National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) which contributed MK 14 Million and Japanese Tobacco International (JTI) which donated MK10 Million to procure COVID-19 testing facilities.

The University is forging ahead exploring further assistance for procurement of gadgets for online testing and zero rated Internet services.

This year’s second public dialogue was graced by Associate Professor and Dean of Michigan State University Steven Hanson; Vice Chancellor of University of Nigeria Charles Ingwe; Vice Chancellor of University of Arts and Human Sciences of Bamako, Mali Idrissa Traore; and was moderated by Vice Chancellor of United States International University of Kenya (USIU) Paul Zeleza from Nairobi.