By Edet Okpo
Imagine that while every other school in the country have shut down completely and hanging their hopes on uncertainties, the story of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), is enviably different for the good reason! Typical of his innovative way of doing things and as a reflection of his clairvoyant leadership, it is commendable to observe that Staff and Cadets of Maritime Academy of Nigeria have not really lost out in their academic activities as is obviously generally the case in other institutions in the country.
Foreseeing possible alterations or abrogation of the academic calendar as a result of the global outbreak of COVID 19 and its attendant inconveniences, the Rector of the Academy, Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua (Rtd.), was quick to utilize modern technology in setting a virtual learning network and mechanism towards ensuring that neither Staff nor Cadets of the Academy lose out in any way. It means that whenever academic activities partially or fully resume after the mandatory stay-at-home period occasioned by the Corona Virus pandemic, the Academy would still be at pace with its academic calendar.
This advanced step taken by the visionary Management brings to the fore the beauty of excellent leadership and idiosyncrasy that typify Commodore Duja Effedua as a person and his celebrated administration of the Academy. It must be observed with a sense of delight and comfort that the virtual programme that he has since commenced has been made easy because of the sophisticated infrastructure and learning-enhancing facilities the Academy has already put on the ground as part of its integral and progressive repositioning, long before COVID 19. For the emphasis, it further lends credence to the proactiveness that has characterised the incumbent Management of the Academy.
In practical readiness to a possible return to campus after COVID’19, the Rector has once again launched additional modalities to sustain their academic programmes and strengthen the precautionary steps the Academy intends to take to ensure that nothing was taken for granted as Cadets continue to receive lectures and engage on other academic activities without undermining preventive measures against the pandemic.
According to the Rector, part of the reviewed measures shall, among others, include having all senior and junior staff of the Academy, as well as Cadets and others providing related services, undergo compulsory and comprehensive COVID 19 screening before stepping their feet into the premises of the Academy for any reason. This, according to the Rector, is to mitigate mutual fears or suspicion amongst Staff and also to engender healthy living.
In addition to the above, all Staff of the Academy shall be provided with face masks and a point of compulsory hand-washing provided at the entrance to the Academy, with sanitizers for all. There will also be an infrared thermometer to monitor the temperature of all Staff and in classrooms for Cadets, and anybody who may have any genuine business to do in the Academy as may have been approved in advance by appropriate quarters.
Because teaching and learning are the preoccupations of the Academy, lectures are still being provided through zoom applications, video or teleconferencing for maximum participation and benefits. On the same note, all meetings including Management meetings and any other amongst staff shall be done through virtual means. Where it was possible for such meetings to be held, the Rector maintained that it has to be done in the conference room or the newly-built, state-of-the-art 1000-capacity auditorium and must not at any time involve more than 10 persons.
In the present circumstances, one of the possible questions could have been about how it will be feasible and easy for all Cadets in the Academy to benefit from the technology of holding virtual lectures that could only be done through laptops and digital screens. It is, therefore, a distinctive mark of purposeful leadership to remember that, as it stands at the moment, and as if the Rector knew what will happen in the future like the COVID 19, all teaching Staff and Cadets of the Academy had since been provided with a personal laptop by the Effedua-inspired administration. It is noteworthy that the laptops were provided for the Cadets free of charge as an incentive for learning and increased productivity, in line with the Rector’s determination and innovation to facilitate learning through modern technology. That is to say that the Academy is ahead of time!
Modestly speaking, with these in place in an Academy that was in a sorry state and was nearing extinction if not for the timely and phenomenal arrival of Commodore Effedua to turn things around with the speed of light, it would be no exaggeration to say that the Academy is now comfortably at par or has an edge even over some renowned maritime institutions globally.
Another area of circumstantial improvisation is in connection with how Cadets will have their meals at the refectory without flouting the principle of social distancing. The Rector disclosed that Cadets shall have to take turns in batches spread across classes in response to the realities of the moment. The same condition will be applicable to classroom settings during lectures that now will be reduced from 30 to 15 students per class. Again, it becomes an added advantage to the Academy that it was already running a two-to-a-room hostel format. Although already of international standard, the Academy’s Medical Centre shall be strengthened the more in view of the times.
Besides these measures, Commodore Effedua further emphasized that no visitors shall be allowed or welcome into the Academy till further notice, except those on special assignments who must be given access only on the presentation of an authorised permit duly issued by the Academy’s Management. Categorically, no staff of the Academy will be permitted to receive any visitor while at work within the Academy premises.
Contractors who may still have to be on-site out of necessity must provide the necessary protective kits to their workers whose identifies must be duly documented. Even Staff and Cadets shall be closely guided and monitored to ensure that no crowd was formed at any point in time until such a time it became obvious that there were no more dangers associated with the unfolding situation.
Expectedly –and more commendably – the Rector of the Academy continues to prove that he is a conscious leader and administrator who is always able to provide timely and needed insight and direction both in normal times and moments of crisis like it is presently. That he was able to put up the necessary infrastructure ahead of time, with more still coming, is a textbook testimony to his visionary leadership, ratiocination and confidence to always steer the ship of the Academy to safe shores.
It is therefore expected that all those concerned shall comply with this directives and take the fullest advantage of the adjustments until situation normalizes. The Academy’s practical steps in resorting to virtual learning so as not to lose the academic year in any way or deprive Cadets of their expectations can also serve as a model to other leaders of institutions in the country.
Further guidelines, according to the Rector, shall be provided as he liaises with a parent or supervisory ministry. It is expected that the pandemic will soon give way to normal activities not just in the Academy but all over the world.