REPRESANTATIVES of tertiary students have urged the government to avail more information on the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination programme to empower students and Zimbabweans as they make health choices.
Student leaders say learners need ample time as well as up-to-date information when making decisions on vaccination.
Daison Nyatsanga (pictured), the Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union’s secretary for education, told The NewsHawks the student movement’s membership is generally “ill-informed on vaccines” and needs more information.
“Government must roll out massive campaigns in educating communities on the advantages of taking vaccination. If a sector like tertiary education that covers universities and colleges is not well-informed on the advantages and disadvantages of taking vaccines, what do you expect of laymen and rural communities? Educational campaigns must be rolled out as a matter of urgency so that the nation is well informed,” he said.
“If little is done on well-informed educational campaigns, negativity against the vaccination will have an impact on its roll out. University administrators must be vaccinated as frontliners to instill confidence among students.”
Many tertiary students have been sitting examinations since early March when President Emerson Mnangagwa lifted national Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
Nyatsanga said students are exposed to the Covid-19 pandemic, as they are writing exams while very little is being done to sanitise premises.
Chinhoyi University of Technology students’ union president Parkington Matanga said student leaders were concerned that their constituency is not being prioritised in the national vaccination drive.
“We resumed exams after lockdown was lifted but none of us were vaccinated. Exams are ongoing and numbers have been reduced in classrooms to avoid infection, but this is not enough. Our major concern is to resume face-to-face lessons with our lecturers so that we continue learning, as online education is expensive due to data limitations among our membership,” Matanga said.
“As students, we are geared to take the jab so we are appealing to the government to make the vaccination and information accessible to students as well.”
Outgoing Africa University students’ union vice-president Andle Sicoliwe Thaka said lessons at the institution were proceeding smoothly through the use of technology.
“We have been doing all lessons online and exams are also online. This means that Covid-19 infection fears are limited as there is no contact amongst us. There are no movements at campus. We have no challenges at Africa University and it’s different from state universities and colleges. Our students are safe and we can’t be pushing for vaccination as a matter of urgency for now.”
At least 2 500 students sat their final exams at the university and will graduate in July, she added.
Gift Sibanda, president of the Midlands State University (MSU) students’ council, said the impact of Covid-19 is multi-faceted as it includes the wellbeing of students.
‘‘The economic challenges the country is facing also impact on students, considering that our parents were on lockdown for two months and registration was due to be closed on 31 January. Most of the students failed to pay school fees and register on time, although extension has been granted,’’ he said.
Sibanda said accessing data for online learning was a big challenge as it is a burden on parents.
“We are a semester behind and some of the affected must graduate this year and everything is working against our plans. We hope we will sail through these trying times of Covid-19,’’ said Sibanda.
Sibanda said the MSU acquired personal protective equipment with the assistance of the corporate sector.
‘‘We have had various educational campaigns to de-mystify the negative attitudes against taking vaccines among students. We are doing this to help the students so that they make informed decisions before taking the vaccines,’’ said Sibanda.