Two UKZN Students Wait Out COVID-19 Pandemic in Algeria
PhD student, Mr Nicholas Rono, and MSc candidate, Ms Latifa Bashar Hamed Abdalla - who had been studying in Algeria when the COVID-19 pandemic became apparent - have opted to sit tight in that country.
As part of UKZN’s efforts to give students a well-rounded education, the University provides opportunities for them and staff to travel abroad to study or do research at other universities for a limited time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many students have returned to South Africa, while some – including Rono and Abdalla - have elected to stay where they have been based.
Rono - at the University of Abou Bekr Belkaïd, commonly known as the University of Tlemcen, in Algeria - says the risk of contracting the coronavirus while travelling is his greatest concern so he decided to wait out the pandemic in Algeria, which is also on lockdown.
The challenges the Chemistry student specialising in optoelectronic nanomaterials (for solar energy conversions) is facing includes; lack of internet connection, limited access to services and items from the shops, and a lack of physical consultation with his supervisor.
He derives strength and hope by praying to God, and the fact that the government is putting measures in place to control the spread of the disease. Rono is also relieved that statistics show that some COVID-19 patients recover.
He keeps in touch with his family in Kenya via Whatsapp calls or video calls, but says the internet connection is sometimes not that good. He is looking forward to continuing with his research once the crisis is under control.
Rono’s travel was made possible by an ACADEMY project scholarship, which facilitates academic mobility of staff and postgraduate students between participating universities.
Abdalla is reading for an MSc in Applied Mathematics (Biomathematics) also at the University of Tlemcen as part of the ACADEMY programme.
Echoing Rono’s worries, she said travelling was a real concern and she had decided to stay in Algeria even though she would rather be at home with her family. ‘It is a real challenge so far because we don’t know exactly what to do - many things are out of our control.’
Abdalla said she is worried about her health and there are many unanswered questions. Her meetings with her supervisor have been suspended and the internet connection is a problem. She is placated by the measures the Algerian government has put in place to control the spread of the virus and gets strength from her faith. ‘I believe in prayer to God to protect and help all of us,’ she added.
Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer