The higher education sector in the UAE is optimistic about the future, as the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine roll-out is looking to encourage more students to be back on campuses by the middle of Spring semester.
Over 27,000 students of the UAE are enrolled at Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Park.
Many academicians believe that the education community should be at the forefront of receiving the jab amid the raging debate between online classes and face-to-face learning.
Educationists acknowledge that emerging from the pandemic requires a clear vision and commitment at all levels.
Dr Yousef Al Assaf, President of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) University, Dubai, said, “The vaccine will allow the universities to operate in a better fashion, as 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 more clarity to emerge.”
Professors cited that online education gives course access to a greater number of students. But a lack of physical interaction between students and faculty members remains a major deterrent.
Dr Al Assaf added, “Students may be able to work on their computers but when it comes to teamwork, they may have pressing issues. It’d be of immense help if students can get back to the campus at the earlier, and the jab will definitely expedite that process.
We’re asking students and faculty members to be back to the campus by early March amid taking all precautionary measures to keep the contagion at bay. We’re encouraging all individuals to consider taking the jab in consultation with their respective physicians.”
A few university faculties are leading from the front, as they have already taken the jab in a bid to create a robust awareness drive about a massive vaccination drive and expect their staff and students to follow suit.
Dr Vajahat Hussain, chief executive officer (CEO), Amity Education Middle East, said: “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’re 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 key role in ensuring that students feel a sense of normalcy this year and a mass vaccination drive is the only way forward for a healthy and secure future.
Dr Rajesh Mohnot, the Head of Finance Department, College of Business Administration, Ajman University, said, “Faculty members have already started taking the jab. I’m optimistic that all stakeholders will volunteer to be inoculated. The UAE’s wise and visionary leadership has been proactive in dealing with the pandemic and has been encouraging a mass vaccination campaign. The vaccine is seen as a relief and a path to recovery and normalcy. Besides, the move will lessen the fear of loss of learning at educational institutions.”
University heads exude cautious optimism
University heads said people would be convinced of the vaccine in course of time and they are hopeful a majority of the population would be inoculated.
Dr David A. Schmidt, President of The American University in Dubai (AUD), said: “Science, data and local and international experts are encouraging all eligible individuals to take the jab, as a means to curb the spread of Covid-19 and achieve herd immunity. We’ll support the UAE government in informing students and the community members on the benefits and importance of receiving the jab.”
Varsities have been committed to safeguarding the health and safety of their students, faculty members and staff, while continuing to seamlessly adapt, ensuring a smooth continuation of their students’ learning journey.
Professor Ammar Kaka, the Provost and Vice-Principal of Heriot-Watt University Dubai, said, “The pandemic had impacted several sectors last year. However, with the roll-out of the vaccine, we’re confident that we will see the start of an economic recovery this year. We laud the wise leadership of the UAE for all the steps they have taken in mitigating the impact of Covid-19 and ensuring a speedy availability of vaccines.”
Source – Khaleej Times