COVID-19: NICO donates K6m for needy College of Medicine undergraduate students

By Duncan Mlanjira

NICO Group, through NICO Life and Nico Pensions, has added more support towards government’s calls to corporates to assist in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic by donating K6 million College of Medicine (COM) to acquire lap tops for its 30 needy undergraduate students who are unable to access lessons in the wake of the tertiary institution being closed.

This follows calls by the college for assistance and NICO says the donation is in line with their values as they “believe in possibilities, even in tough times”.

Chima (right) and Dr. Mipando

NICO Pension General Manager, Gerald Chima said the Group felt that assisting the future health workers is important, especially now when the world is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has left no industry untouched, with everyone being affected in one way or another,” Chima said.

“Looking ahead, institutions would need to be more dynamic and smarter in how we continuously respond to the ever-changing environment.

NICO staff at Kameza Isolation Centre in May

“That is why when COM reached out for assistance in procuring laptops to facilitate e-learning, we did not hesitate.

He further encouraged students to use their time resources wisely as there is still uncertainty around the reopening of school.

COM Principal, Dr. Mwapatsa Mipando commended NICO, saying the donation will go a long way.

“We have a number of needy students and this pandemic has left them more needy than before.

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“This donation by NICO will go a long way in ensuring that the students adequately equipped to continue their studies,” Mipando said.

NICO pledged to continue assisting as many students during this trying time as many remain stranded without access to their tertiary institutions.

In May, as soon as Malawi were registering COVID-19 cases, NICO Group donated 20 hospital beds, 20 mattresses, 20 oxygen units and 20 bedside trolleys worth K22 million to boost the services that is being provided at Kameza COVID-19 isolation centre in Blantyre.

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Eight of the beds were intensive care unit (ICU) hydraulic adjustable to cater for very serious cases.

NICO Group’s Managing Director Vizenge Kumwenda had said they decided to come forward in recognition and acknowledgement of the efforts that the Government is making towards monitoring and controlling the situation.

Meanwhile, five months after learning institutions in Malawi were closed due to COVID-19, the Ministry of Education Science and Technology has developed guidelines for reopening of schools and teacher training colleges.

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A communique from the Ministry says the schools should reopen for members of management and teachers first to prepare for the return of the learners and thereafter introduce the learners through a phased approach by priotizing examination years first (Standard 8, Form 4)

Schools, districts and divisions must use the Education Management Information System (EMIS) data on situations of schools, teachers and learners to inform decision making process.

The scaling up of other students should be considered after two weeks, following the review by district councils (DEYs, DEMs, EDMs and DHOs) and national MoEST and MoH committees.

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“It is anticipated that schools must meet minimum standards on a checklist, conducted by school head teachers in collaboration with School Management Committee and District,” says the communique.

“When schools reopen, the learning shall resume from term 2 to term 3 curricular content with a strong focus on remedial education and catch up.”

The guidelines further says steps should be taken to reduce class sizes by every available measures,including but not limited to those methods outlined in the “strategies to decongest schools”.

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Instruction time should be minimized for learners, with appropriate adjustments made to the school timetable to account for remedial instructions before and after classes.

“All schools will complete a preparedness checklist to be administered by head teachers in collaboration with School Management Committees with support from Primary Education Advisors, Secondary Methods Advisors for Director of Education Youth and Sports and/or District Education Managers for primary schools, Education Division Managers for secondary school approval before reopening.”

It furthers says all school buildings should be disinfected before reopening following CDC guidelines and that all buildings must have hand washing stations (water and soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer) to be available at the entrance to classrooms, library, dining areas, hostels and administration offices and by toilets.

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