Life in Lockdown: Collaboration across Every Level on Butaro Campus
Despite the devastating socio-economic and health implications of this virus worldwide, COVID-19 has shown us that unity and collaboration – globally, but also on a smaller scale within organizations – can be a binding force to spark positive, and inclusive action. Collaboration in times of crisis is often difficult, especially now where lockdown has physically isolated individuals from their teams, compromised certain supply chains due to limited movement, and forced a reevaluation of internal processes to keep operations running smoothly. Yet a commitment across all levels, a shared belief in a common mission, and the presence of strong leadership during a crisis, can generate new and effective collaborations that benefit everyone.
Whilst many academic institutions globally have been forced to close in line with government guidelines to protect populations, UGHE’s Butaro Campus has remained operational with authorization from the Government of Rwanda, a result of two months preparation before the first case [March 14th] was announced in Rwanda. This was to align with our mission of providing both quality education and equitable care; we needed to protect and provide a home for international students and staff from both the region and overseas, as well as all Rwandans living on campus.
Collins Inkotanyi, UGHE’s newly appointed Director of Campus Operations and Community Engagement, has, with the support from UGHE Leadership, spearheaded this rapid action on campus to protect all staff, students and faculty currently residing there. He shares his thoughts below on how collaboration, at every level, has maintained a smooth running of operations and uninterrupted learning for students.
WORDS BY COLLINS INKOTANYI:
About half the world’s population is currently in lockdown due to Covid-19 crisis. Millions of people have been affected by this pandemic economically and socially. But in one way or another, many people have been able to find solutions by sharing what they have in terms of food, keeping and following all measures to prevent the spread of the disease.
Like many places around the world, the University of Global Health Equity’s (UGHE) Butaro campus was met with the same restrictions on movement, put in place rapidly by the Government of Rwanda to protect its population from virus transmission. At first, there was a feeling of global uncertainty; no one knew what was happening or how long it would last. We thought it would be a few weeks, with life going back to normal, and business continued. However, almost three and a half months have gone by since the campus went under lockdown. Regardless of the potential uncertainties posed by the pandemic, we knew we had to react quickly, work as a team and keep the campus a good learning and living environment for all students. We were keen to ensure that students could keep their studies going in the same way they had before this crisis hit.
To maintain the wellbeing of all staff, students, faculty and campus workers, we needed to make sure all the necessities were available on campus. We ordered all vital supplies like groceries, drinking water, emergency medical supplies, and ensured that all the required people to keep this running were available to support on campus. We gave the choice to all staff as to staying on campus or returning home, and remain grateful to those who remained at the service of students and other campus residents during this time, making this sacrifice instead of returning home to their families. We prepared quarantine rooms, thermometers, hand sanitizers and drafting guidelines people to follow, and within a few days we had every needed item on campus as planned.
The lockdown has also brought about new challenges such as occasional water shortages, plumbing issues, some people getting sick from other diseases, maintaining social distancing, and staggered dining for all. We had also to stop all social gatherings like basketball games to protect everyone on campus, and fulfill the personal hygienic and sanitary needs of all. Yet none of these challenges interrupted any of our essential planned activities as we had a robust team to tackle them. This is due in part to the cooperation of all residents on campus. Contractors, staff and faculty were all working towards a shared mission of providing students a the needed conditions from which to do their online classes.
To ensure equity in days off and family enjoyment, we made sure we had rotations to allow people much-deserved time off while respecting the systematic 14 days of isolation in their single room on campus before work started. We also ensured all contractors had the capacity to communicate frequently with families and friends by providing monthly airtime or internet to communicate with their families, access to television in order to know what is happening, and time to do socially distanced sports.
All of this would not have been possible without the cooperation of all and collaboration at every level. We were grateful to receive full support from UGHE’s Leadership led by Vice Chancellor Prof. Agnes Binagwaho, and other supporting departments such as procurement, transportation, logistics, infrastructure, security and the academic team. Since the pandemic started to spread all over the world, our leadership communicated frequently to the UGHE family. This meant clinical updates that helped educate us on the disease, clear instruction for campus operations, check-ins on the emotional wellbeing of all, and measures to prevent transmission which, in turn, were key to all decisions and plans we made. Even though the campus is still under lockdown, we are still thriving as lionesses and lions, keeping everyone at campus safe, and proud that UGHE’s provision of quality education continues uninterrupted, ensuring the growth of our future global health leaders.