African Leadership University

Message from ALU President. Updates, Reflections and Gratitude.

Dear ALU Community:

Yesterday, the final airplanes carrying ALU students from our campuses in Mauritius and Rwanda to their homes landed safely. I am thankful.

Over the past several weeks, our leadership team has been considering scenarios for the university should the COVID-19 situation worsen on the continent. We suspended non-class group events, including the ALU School of Business graduation and on-site teaching intensives. We prohibited campus guests. Implemented a travel ban and remote working policies for anyone returning from international trips. We bolstered transmission prevention communications across both campuses, expanded the availability of hand sanitization dispensers around the campuses and enhanced training for food services and cleaning staff. And we continued to closely monitor the rapidly changing external environment.

On Monday, we reached the decision to evacuate our campuses with high urgency as we felt the window of opportunity to act and safeguard our students and staff was closing fast. Last Monday evening I addressed the student body in Mauritius and shared with them that they would pack and return home within 48 hours. A similar decision was announced by Dr. Gaidi Faraj, the Dean of the Rwanda campus, to our Kigali community the following day. We are shifting to online learning for the remaining few weeks of the academic year.

These are unprecedented times. The pace of the pandemic and the dramatic and preemptive decisions that we made and executed tested the leadership and capabilities of our university family. I am proud of our actions and our performance.

I am proud of our students. When our decision disrupted their normalcy, your young faces spoke volumes – shock, anxiety, confusion. You wanted to know about your upcoming exams, your academic standing, whether you would be safer elsewhere. I saw you hug each other, reassure your peers and help provide clarity on a myriad of questions.

As President, I saw my team grow. I was in a community of leaders – steady in a time of crisis. Our Student Life team, led by Jeremy Ruiters in Mauritius and Sila Ogidi in Rwanda has stayed in touch with our students, monitoring their progress home, and will remain available to support them in any way needed – the lines of engagement and communication remain open and active.

I am proud of our staff and faculty.  Even before our announcement, plans were already under way for the students’ repatriation. A cross-functional team of leaders and volunteers — from Student Life, Stakeholder Management, People, Operations and Registrar’s Office — sprung to life and worked overnight. Within 48 hours almost 300 students from both campuses were either booked, in transit or already home.

At the same time, the Academic leadership and faculty has been transitioning learning to an online mode and will resume classes next Thursday. Administrative meetings have also all shifted to virtual channels, as we wait for the storm to pass. My Senior Leadership Team and I continue to support all our faculty and administrative staff as you reset for the coming weeks. The business of the university continues.

I am proud of our parents and alumni – physically distant but immediately and intimately engaged, who scoured the skies and alerted us as students returned home and volunteered to help in any way you could. I appreciated the comments and notes of support we received from many of you.

I am proud of my management team, who met and still convenes numerous times at all hours of the week, day and night, and the honesty and clarity with which each of you shared your perspective and the steadfast resolution with which you executed the final decision, even as the level of urgency outside of our campuses was much lower than our compulsion to act. Throughout this period and always, our highest priority was the education and protection of our students. You and your futures are what we are here to serve.

Today, the global environment has shifted even more since Monday. Mauritius announced its first case of COVID-19 even as our last student was leaving the island. This weekend, the number has risen to 14, and the country is in a full mandatory lockdown. The Mauritius government is in the process of suspending air travel to and from the island. And it has dissolved all meeting spaces, which would have included our ALC campus. In Rwanda, similar measures and a travel ban have been enacted by the government and our residence halls there are also compliant with social distancing guidelines. As I write, except for three cases that we are supporting closely, over 1,000 students and all staff are in safe spaces.

As humans, we are prone to assess ourselves and each other in terms of “what we did,” “what we are unable to do” or “what we failed to do.” As a manager, I sometimes do that too. This week, I saw our community coalesce around “what we can do” – extraordinary acts when the time demands them. And as the moment demanded, I saw us reach beyond our comfort zones and acquire and deploy newly learnt skills with excellence. I saw our potential expand and new possibilities emerge for us.

Our “Doing Hard Things” culture will always lead us to rise up in crisis, but when things return to normal we must remember the insight we are gaining into ourselves and into our future — our ability to grow more, discover new talents and achieve new personal goals —fueled by learning from and teaching each other and focusing less on the risk of failure — and instead on our potential for success. We proved that if we could multiply when called by circumstance, we can do the same any day, and every day, at our own pace and calling.

Our university’s moonshot vision has always been to expand the canvas of Africa’s potential and paint her future with three million hands by 2035. This vision was strengthened this week as every individual in our community broadened their own canvas, with new colors obtained from an environment rich with diversity. As President, I got to watch this blossoming of color with awe and humility. Of you all, and of this university we call home, I am proud. For you all, I am also thankful.

Stay safe and stay connected. We will be together again soon. And we will be stronger.



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