covid-19 in tanzania
specific News and response from Wesley College
Friends of Wesley College: In mid-March 2020, the first COVID-19 cases were found in Tanzania. We have dedicated this page to keep you updated on the impact of the pandemic and Wesley College’s response. Our updates have been posted with the most recent information at the top.
The government of Tanzania directed all primary and secondary schools to resume classes at the end of June. Because Wesley College's Adult Education program is classified as a secondary institution, classes resumed on June 29th, 2020.
We are grateful to UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) which provided Wesley College with a grant of $5,400, specifically to support costs related to reopening during the global pandemic. Thanks to UMCOR support, we have installed hand washing stations and replaced all mattresses in the student hostel.
The number of cases and deaths due to coronavirus in Tanzania have not been updated since the end of April. The government continues to report the same numbers: 480 cases and 16 deaths. Consequently, we are not confident that we fully understand the COVID-19 situation in the country. There is little question but that virus cases have been on the rise.
Per government directive, the College reopened on Monday, June 1st, for most programs. Students in Theology, Community Development, and Business Administration programs returned for in-person instruction. Also per government directive, all Adult Education and short-term courses remain closed.
1.) We are relieved that none of our students contracted the virus while they were away.
2.) We admit that we are reopening with some trepidation, due to lack of full understanding of the coronavirus situation in Tanzania. We are doing everything we can to keep our students and staff safe.
3.) All students are receiving training in the first week, so that they understand College expectations and their individual responsibility to follow guidelines.
4.) Safeguards at Wesley College include: hand-washing and hand-sanitizer stations, required mask wearing, rearrangement of classrooms for social distancing, thermal scanners for fever checks, etc. All individuals suspected to have the virus will need to quarantine for two weeks. We have set up a special isolation room for students who reside at the College hostel.
5.) Per government directive, all national exams will be administered in July, according to the original schedule.This is resulting in significant pressure on faculty and students, as they essentially need to cover three months of material during the month of June.
The general situation in Tanzania:
All large social gatherings have been postponed, and all flights in and out of the country have been cancelled. The country has not been put on lockdown to the extent of neighboring countries, but social distancing is being encouraged. The President of Tanzania has required a shutdown of all educational institutions until further notice.
We have had to suspend distance learning for Wesley College programs, with the exception of our Theology Program. This decision, while difficult, has been driven by two realities:
1). Too many students in Business Administration, Community Development, and Adult Education coursework do not have adequate access to technology and they have consequently fallen far behind.
2). Government accreditation bodies have decreed that distance learning coursework is not acceptable, and all instruction would need to be repeated once schools are allowed to open.
We are continuing to provide distance learning instruction to theology program students, as this program is not as tightly regulated by government educational oversight. Also, a higher proportion of these students have been able to stay engaged. We are happy to be able to continue to feed their hunger to learn.
We are continuing to pay all staff during this difficult time. In addition to providing pay to salaried employees, we are committed to pay a living stipend to all part-time, hourly instructors, whose services are not currently needed. Generous US-based donors have been key to our ability to support all Wesley College employees and their families.
Faculty who are not engaged in distance learning are using this time to work on new program and training plans, designed to be most helpful to the community, as it reopens. We will report more on these efforts in the coming weeks.
How you can support Wesley College at this time.
An Overview of Wesley College’s Original Response to COVID-19, mid-March:
Wesley College has always been a service and community-oriented organization. As the growing concerns around coronavirus escalated around the world, Wesley College was developing an early plan to monitor the situation in Tanzania. Our goal is to ensure that staff and students will be cared for no matter what happens.
Wesley College, even before a single case had been confirmed in Tanzania, began to put the proper washing stations and practices into place to reduce the chances of virus transmission.
Dr. Ngallaba, Wesley College Interim Principal and Tanzanian public health expert, provided an educational seminar to all staff and students, addressing how to avoid coronavirus, how it spreads, and necessary precautions. As a result, our students are now carrying this education into homes, villages, communities, and churches in many parts of Tanzania.
Our early monitoring of the situation provided Wesley College with the opportunity to put distance learning options into place before the college closed and students dispersed.
Wesley College is committed to complying with all government directives and advice. We will exceed basic expectations and guidelines through this crisis and upon reopening.
What operations looked like at Wesley College now:
A reduced staff is continuing to come into the office as necessary, maintaining distance and health standards. These staff members are coordinating the distance learning activity, staying up-to-date on the developing situation, and continuing to do our long-term development and strategic work -- necessary for Wesley College to emerge strong and ready to get back to work, after this crisis.
Wesley College lecturers are continuing to teach and have daily communications with students. They have given out study tools and assignments and are communicating with students about questions, assignments and academic topics. To be honest, we had hoped to be farther in our development of online learning, before students dispersed. But we are entirely committed that students will not lose this opportunity to continue their educations. We will work through this with them.
Wesley College staff are doing as much as possible to reduce costs during this time in an effort to be good stewards of all resources.
Our Acknowledged Fears and Hope:
Length of the closure
The Tanzanian government is mandating a 30-day closure, until April 21st. At that point they will reevaluate. We are preparing for a three-month closure based on what has happened in other countries. As is the case everywhere at this time, we will need to take this crisis day-by-day and week-by-week.
Other government decisions affecting Wesley College
In Tanzania a national regulating body (NACTE) sets dates for all exams, regulates curriculum, and oversees the admission of students into colleges. NACTE will have the final say as to how this time will be made up and how this closure will affect the examination timeline. NACTE will also regulate student admission to the new academic year, which typically starts in October. We will continue to monitor this and adapt as needed when decisions are announced.
Lack of income during this time because of student fears, lack or work, and the general vulnerability of the Tanzanian economy and community
Because many of our students come from low-income families, most pay college tuition through a month-by-month payment plan. This way, we are able to serve students who would not be able to afford the full cost of a semester at one time. Now, with COVID-19 creating economic instability, it has disrupted many people’s ability to make money. Many students have already expressed an inability to pay school fees until coronavirus has passed. This affects our cashflow and puts Wesley College in a precarious position.
Our moral obligation to stand by staff and students as a public, community institution
Wesley College, while obviously dealing with many challenges of this crisis, desires to see this crisis as an opportunity to display solidarity and to be sure that our resilient students can continue their educations. More than anything, we aim to be loyal to the college’s most important resource: our dedicated staff. During this challenging time, our greatest concern is to continue to pay these committed men and women. This is not just “good business” but an important commitment to the Wesley family and their families at home.