Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
As the COVID-19 pandemic keeps spreading across the world, some cheery reports from Nigerian students are coming out of China.
Many have fallen victim of the dreaded virus, while governments all over the world are making efforts to contain the spread. In Nigeria, schools have been closed, and many states have shut down markets and public offices.
The National Universities Commission (NUC) has also ordered universities in Nigeria to proceed on an emergency vacation. The management of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (UNIZIK), Anambra State, in compliance with the NUC directive, has already directed students to go home.
UNIZIK hosts a flourishing Chinese language and culture training centre known as the Confucius Institute. The institute has produced various graduates who have been sent to China for further studies, while classes have been extended to the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, and Enugu State College of Education, Enugu, among others.
When the coronavirus hit China, there was apprehension initially at the Confucius Institute classrooms in Anambra because the institute was managed by a Chinese director and some other Chinese lecturers who were on holiday in China during the period.
Speaking with reporters recently, UNIZIK’s vice chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, said the university took adequate precautionary measures at the Confucius Institute by suspending physical lectures and also disallowing the holidaying Chinese lecturers from coming back to Nigeria immediately.
The Chinese director of the Confucius Institute, UNIZIK, Prof. Yu Zhangbao, it was gathered, has also taken several measures to ensure that no case of coronavirus is recorded in the centre. He has ordered that any student of the centre returning from China must go into isolation for two weeks while being monitored closely for any eventuality.
But some parents with children studying in China on the Confucius Institute’s scholarship were apprehensive over the safety of their wards.
However, Nigerian students in China have been speaking, confirming that they are very safe in China. They eulogised the Chinese authorities and the university management over there for rising timeously to the challenge of coronavirus.
Some of them who allayed worries about their safety in China, noting that the government of China not only tackled the scourge head-on but also ensured that the safety of students and other immigrants were guaranteed.
Onyekwelu Patrick Chinazam, one of the students who spoke to Daily Sun, described China as a very interesting country and a place that makes foreigners feel at home because of the people’s unequalled hospitality. Patrick, who was of the Oko Polytechnic Chinese class, said the education system in China creates an academic paradise for foreign students, giving one an impetus to desire to achieve more academically.
Studying at the Fujian Normal University, China, Patrick said, alongside others, he had just finished the semester’s exams and was anticipating the upcoming spring festival known as the Chinese New Year when the coronavirus broke out, spreading like wildfire all round the country and outside: “They said it is called coronavirus and we were told the virus is transmitted through the respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and that there is no ready cure for the disease.”
He said the students were filled with panic, but they were advised not to panic or spread panic. He recalled that the cases started rapidly. The teachers in charge of foreign students and the school authorities at Fujian Normal University advised the students to cancel all plans of touring round China.
“It’s a pity; I had plans of travelling north. I wanted to see the Great Wall of China in Beijing; I wanted to see The Imperial Palace in Beijing. The Spring Festival is the most enjoyable time in China, and the epidemic started right in the middle of the Chinese New Year celebrations,” he said.
Despite the setback, Patrick said what shocked him and other foreign students was the way the Chinese government and the people responded with strict preventive measures, even though it was a time of festivities.
“In order to keep us the foreign students that stayed back in China during the spring holiday secured, the teachers in charge of foreign students at the university instructed that we should not go outside the school premises. Everyone had to sign out each time there was a crucial need to go out of the apartment, and no one would leave the building without a face mask.
“The school authorities locked up all the school gateways. This was not only meant to keep students from going out, but more importantly to keep strangers from coming inside without regulation. The teachers made arrangements with a supermarket; whereby we could order all the convenient goods that we needed, and the store managers would deliver them to our apartment,
“Same orderly arrangements were also made for the delivery of water. The teachers were just like parents to us abroad. Now and then, they reminded us of the necessary measures to take in order to keep one safe from contacting the virus.”
Patrick said provisions were made for free face masks and medications, with a physician on standby.
“Thermometers were provided for every room so that we could check our temperature twice every day and report to the physician. The whole environment was also disinfected from time to time. The teachers also provided us with materials to practise the Chinese paper cutting and the Chinese knot tying, to keep our mind and body engaged.”
He recalled that though they stopped attending classes, they never stopped learning.
“In order to curb the further spread of the virus, the students were requested by the authorities not to come back to school by mid-February to resume the new semester, but the school didn’t relent. They made it possible that we took the semester courses through different online platforms.”
He said the Chinese authorities, the doctors and nurses, the police and other law enforcement agencies as well as volunteers were doing all they could to fight the virus.
“So far, the whole citizens and foreigners have been cooperating with the authorities to control the pandemic. I believe China will win this battle. The current decline in the mortality rate is a sign of victory. So, we have to persevere to the end.”
He encouraged the Nigerian government to sustain the tempo in ensuring that the pandemic does not wreak havoc in the country and urged everybody to strictly adhere to preventive measures against COVID-19.
“Everybody can be infected alike but, if we all work together, we can stop this from becoming a global crisis. I wish my family, all my friends and my teachers in Nigeria, China and other parts of the world peace of mind and body,” he said.