Dear Staff, Students, Alumni and Stakeholders of Botho University,
These are trying times for everyone across our region and the world. Our condolences and prayers go out to those who have lost community members or been affected in other ways by this pandemic. Botho University’s focus throughout the current COVID-19 pandemic has been to ensure that we implement measures to protect members of our community through constant communication, sharing of trustworthy information, halting official and monitoring personal travel, sanitisation through stringent cleaning measures and widespread hand sanitiser availability including compulsory hand sanitisation on entry to our campuses, and following government directives including closing campuses to students. Furthermore, the University has focused on operational continuity through online learning platforms which were already in use both for our campus learning and distance learning students prior to the outbreak of the pandemic and new work from home policies. Cost monitoring and control measures have also been strengthened to ensure business continuity should the pandemic continue for a prolonged period. These efforts try to help protect members of our campus community, help students continue their learning and maintain job security for staff.
Botho University is continually monitoring developments and is aware that the situation is fluid and changing daily. All our campuses have been closed for over a week now and by tomorrow all countries that we have campuses in (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini) will be in lock-down. Most of our staff will be working from home and we aim to keep major services going, including teaching and learning, research, student and staff support, marketing and admissions, finance, compliance functions, technology services, etc. We have also confirmed that essential suppliers will continue to operate and service the University. We would like to wholeheartedly thank our staff and our students across all countries for the efforts they have put in despite the major challenges they have faced.
Numerous meetings have been conducted with student representatives and staff, in-person and virtually using video conferencing, to discuss the transition and to understand and where possible address challenges. The main challenge, amongst others, faced by our campus-based community members is access to the Internet. Most of our campus-learning students have University-issued tablets which can be used for learning. The University has a mobile learning application that provides offline access, thus allowing students with intermittent access to the Internet to be able to study. Some programmes also have virtual labs designed for distance learning which will also be used. Most lecturers have also made use of social media applications, such as WhatsApp, to augment existing systems. The University has also assisted some staff with Internet access and provided devices such as laptops, tablets and desktops to enable them to work from home. The academic team has extended deadlines on assessments to help staff and students manage the transition. Assessment tools are also being adapted to work in an online and off-campus model. Botho University has been in touch with some telecommunication providers, and they have also offered to ease the pressure through discounted rates and whitelisting of key sites and packages. We hope that in the coming weeks all other key stakeholders, public and private, will play their part in encouraging learning and easing infrastructure constraints. While it is very difficult to predict how long the pandemic will continue to impact the education sector, it is possible that school closures may be prolonged affecting academic calendars well beyond just the current year. We thus urge all stakeholders to promote and support the continuation of learning wherever possible to mitigate long-term impacts on education and our society.
Let us work together to follow the guidance provided by our Governments, the World Health Organisation and other leading experts to slow the spread of this virus for the sake of our community members, country and world. Anyone with any questions are welcome to contact the following email addresses for assistance:
• Campus Learning Students: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Blended and Distance Learning Students: email@example.com
• Staff Members: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Alumni Members: email@example.com
• Other External Stakeholders: firstname.lastname@example.org
We at Botho University value our wider communities’ health and safety – with integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, and our shared spirit of Botho we will get through this together.