St. Mary’s University extraordinary Senate meeting was held on October 22, 2020 to hear reports on the preparations undertaken by the various academic and administrative operational units toward resumption of classes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Aware of developments related to opening higher education institutions, which have been closed nationwide since March 17, 2020 to ward off the spread of the pandemic, the meeting was prompted by the deliberations made in Hawassa last week at a meeting comprising policy makers from the lower House of Representatives, Ministers and university presidents.
The Hawassa high-level meeting had the key agenda of the preparations undertaken by universities to resume classes putting in place all the protocols laid down by the Ethiopian Ministry of Health together with the Ministry of Science and Higher Education to stave off the spread of COVID-19. At that meeting, Dr. Misganaw, V/P for Research and International Relations, presented St. Mary’s experiences focusing on the activities done throughout the time of closure of in-person classes and the preparations the University has undertaken to resume classes. According to his reports, at the Senate meeting, participants of the Hawassa meeting hailed what St. Mary’s has done and commended the unique experiences of proposing student-led Campus Compliance Officers, who would ensure the conformance of students with the protocols of COVID-19. He also sensitized Senate members with the key issues that transpired at the Hawassa deliberations, which include roles of on- and–off campus stakeholders before and after resumption of classes.
In line with institutionalizing the protocols that ensure the health safety of students and staff, the following were considered to be requirements that universities are expected to meet:
It was also noted that the need for giving psychosocial support to incoming students and prioritizing the availability of online materials to minimize person-to-person contacts were given due importance. Meanwhile, in our case, the significant role played by the General Services under the leadership of Ato Desalegn Berie, the V/P for Business and Admin, as presented in his report, is no match in the accomplishments they have demonstrated. In addition to the routine duties they handle on daily basis, the laborious newly-installed hands-free plumbing fixtures and the rearrangement of seats, in conformity with COVID-19 protocols, have made their work even more tasking. While the posters and flyers were put in place by the SSSO, the overall follow up was the V/P’s responsibilities, as Chair of the Taskforce involving the Director for Academic Affairs, the Dean of Student Support and Services Office, the Dean for the Faculty of Accounting & Finance, and the Head of the General Services Office.
Chaired by the President, SMU, the Senate was also briefed by the EVP, and the Special Assistant to the President, pertaining to the Academic preparation of the Undergraduate Program and that of the Graduate Program respectively
Finally, appreciating the work of the entire operational units, the President made his closing remarks highlighting on the importance of understanding the context we are in, enshrining the culture of sense of immediacy in responding to current situation, cherishing team work, nurturing out of the box thinking and sorting out response methods to events since the same approach may not be compatible to all situations.