The higher education sector is apparently coming back to its feet with the availability of Covid vaccines in the country, said top university professors in the UAE.
Many people maintained that the education community should also be at the forefront of receiving vaccines, due to the ongoing dilemma over online learning versus onsite classes.
Earlier, Dubai announced the free rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19, while China’s Sinopharm vaccine, which has been available since the past 25 days now, is being offered to masses across many hospitals and medical centres in the country.
As a first step and to lead by example, a few university faculties have already taken the jab and are creating awareness drives among their staff and students to advocate the use of Covid-19 vaccines.
Dr Vajahat Hussain, CEO, Amity Education Middle East, pointed out: “As frontline workers, professors are exposed on a daily basis, although all safety measures are followed.”
He added: “The vaccine provides a layer of security and confidence. We are encouraging everyone to voluntarily get the vaccine. Internal awareness communications about vaccination options, locations, appointments and more have been shared with staff. Easy availability and access to vaccines are a great advantage for UAE residents.”
Educationists emphasised that an interactive, on-campus learning experience plays a large role in ensuring that students feel a sense of normalcy in 2021 and the vaccine is the only way forward.
Dr Rajesh Mohnot, Head of Finance Department, College of Business Administration, Ajman University, said: “Faculty members have already started taking the vaccine jab and I am very optimistic that all the parties – faculty members, students and administrative staff -will be taking the vaccine very soon. Our leadership has been extremely proactive in dealing with this pandemic situation and are now motivating all parties to go for vaccination. Vaccine is undoubtedly being seen as a respite in returning to normalcy and abating the fear of loss of learning at educational institutions.”
University heads explained with time, people will be more convinced of the vaccine, and they are hopeful of reaching a stage when the majority will be inoculated.
Dr Yousef Al Assaf, President- Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) University in Dubai, said: “This will allow the universities to operate in a better fashion compared to last year. I hope the numbers of students for onsite learning increase by the end of Spring semester and by summer, we expect things to be clearer.”
Professors pointed out that even though online education compliments the delivery model while giving course access to a greater number of people, lack of physical interaction between students and faculty still poses a challenge.
Dr Al Assaf added: “This can affect the future of the students to be more engaged in their education. They may be able to work behind computers but when it comes to teamwork, they may have issues. Therefore, going back to the campus is critical. The vaccine will enable that.
At RIT Dubai, by beginning of March we are asking students and faculty to go back to campus. We will keep taking the standard precautions. We also encourage everyone to consider taking the vaccine, of course in consultation with their physicians.”
Varsities have been committed to safeguarding the health and safety of their students, faculty and staff, while continuing to seamlessly adapt, ensuring a smooth continuation of their students’ learning journey.
Dr David A Schmidt, The American University in Dubai (AUD) President, said: “Science, data and local and international experts are encouraging all eligible individuals to get the vaccine, as a means to curb the spread of Covid-19 and achieve herd immunity. While we cannot impose the vaccine, as we are mindful that individuals might have pre-existing health concerns, we will support the UAE government in informing students and the community on the benefits and importance of receiving the vaccine.”
Educationists welcomed any initiative to get all staff and students vaccinated as this would be a great step towards normalcy in colleges.
Dr Arindam Banerjee, Associate Professor and Deputy Director (Dean) – MBA programmes Director-Student Recruitment, SP Jain School of Global Management, Dubai Campus, remarked: “There is no doubt about the fact that the vaccine is going to bring in a lot of confidence among students as well teachers. I strongly feel universities should encourage students and staff to take the vaccine, whether they will, still remains a question. It’s a function of many factors. But definitely, the vaccines will be a huge boost for all and face-to face learning will once again gain pace. It will give a facelift to the education sector.”
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