The COVID-19 pandemic has caused additional challenges for some of the approximately 5,000 students who attend the University of The Bahamas, many of whom are scholarship recipients. With adherence to the protocols of social distancing, students who resided in the University’s residential facilities were advised to return home, leaving some to grapple with the challenge of insufficient access to technology and devices needed to continue their classes remotely. Responding to the obvious need, UB has established a special emergency fund to help students bridge this gap and continue their virtual learning.
The #UBCOVID-19ReliefFund is for the benefit of students, faculty and staff impacted by the pandemic. Contributions to this fund will be made available to those in need with a special focus on Family Island students who, as a result of the disaster have had to return to home. UB President Dr. Rodney D. Smith invited support from donors in order to help UB students meet their academic goals. “We have learned many lessons as a result of the pandemic.
We have learned that some of our students do not have access to technology, which has become yet another “essential” in today’s world. For many, attending and graduating from University of The Bahamas represents an opportunity, a new beginning, a means to change their lives and the lives of their families. Education represents the way to escape poverty. A way to change the past.
We are obligated, therefore, to do whatever we can to ensure the success of all of our students,” President Smith noted. COVID-19 has compounded previous challenges. In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian ripped through the University of The Bahamas-North campus in Grand Bahama, severely damaging the administrative block, classrooms, the residential facility and most of the technology. Both unprecedented crises are adversely affecting the University and the students that it serves. In accordance with the protocols of the Government of The Bahamas and The Bahamas Min. of Health, UB’s campuses, centres and business operations including the Oakes Field Campus, Grosvenor Close Centre, and UB-North operations in Grand Bahama transitioned to remote operations on 16th March. This was one day after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported.
To allow graduating seniors the opportunity to complete their final courses and for all other students to progress through the semester, classes continued via online applications. As a precaution students residing in the University’s residential facilities were advised to return home. This included all Family Island students. However, many students have limited or no access to the necessary technology, devices and Internet connections. Others still need essential food items and supplies. The emergency relief fund is intended to bridge those needs. Grand Bahama native, Student Government Association President Ms. Alexis Lightbourne underscored the need to support UB students. “Since the pandemic, we’ve come to realize the vital role technology plays and the impact it has on the learning process. Supporting our faculty, students and especially Family Islanders by equipping them with the tools they need for online classes is vital. As SGA President, I am deeply appreciative of the support of alumni and friends of UB,” said Lightbourne.
To date, approximately 4,600 students, 210 faculty and 438 staff are working remotely. Many are in need of technology equipment to efficiently deliver class content and fulfil daily work demands. In addition to the #UBCOVID-19ReliefFund, the UB CARES pantry provides students in need with basic hygiene and food items. Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Mr. Dino Hernandez lauds UB alumni, friends and corporate Bahamas for their continued generosity in times of great trial to serve the student population. “Former U.S. President Barack Obama once stated that, ‘the best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.’ As partners of this great institution, your gift of any amount makes a difference in the day-to-day lives of our students. Whether providing cans of food for our student pantry, making an outright gift or donating a used laptop, it does make a difference and fills our students with hope.” expressed Hernandez.