Universities to start classes again after earthquake

As citizens from both Rwanda’s Rubavu district and Goma town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) try to recover from the effects of the Nyiragongo volcano eruption, schools and universities are also trying to resume their work.

According to the United Nations, about 30 people died when the Nyiragongo volcano, situated in eastern DRC, erupted on 22 May. On 28 May it warned that another eruption might be imminent.

Following the eruption, heavy earthquakes were felt and citizens were forced to vacate the area, especially in the Goma district.

Hundreds of houses were destroyed, both in Rwanda and in DRC, while crops were washed away as a result of lava flow, according to officials.

Schools and universities in the area stopped all contact sessions and students were given the option to vacate campuses.

Rubavu town has two campuses: the University of Tourism Technology and Business Studies (UTB) and the Kigali Independent University, or ULK in the French acronym. Both are subsidiaries of Kigali-based institutions.

Resumption of classes

According to Gilbert Uwitonze, the dean of students at UTB, Rubavu campus, teaching stopped, but the university was looking for ways to reopen.

“There were heavy earthquakes after the eruption and we took precautionary measures to minimise the effect. We first halted classes on the top floors [of university buildings] and we only used ground floors,” he said.

“Days later, as earthquakes intensified, panic grew, students panicked and parents were calling them to return home; therefore we decided to halt physical classes. Students were given the option to vacate the campuses,” he added.

He said that students were given assignments to work on while at home and university staff kept following up.

Uwitonze said that calm was returning. “There are [still] a few earthquakes [but] the situation is returning to normal. Businesses are opening and we hope to resume classes today (31 May),” he said.

“We have taken precautionary measures in case there is another eruption. We are in contact with local leaders and officials in charge of disaster management to get first-hand information [and] are close to students to ensure they are counselled in case of any incident,” he said.

University World News learned that courses at the Kigali Independent University were yet to resume and officials were doing all they could to make this possible.

Universities in Goma were reportedly also closed as thousands of people vacated the area. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, residents in DR Congo were warned on 28 May that there could be a second eruption.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that an estimated 400,000 people have been affected by the state evacuation order of 10 districts in Goma, issued amid fears of a new eruption.

UNHCR said that more than 4,000 people have arrived from the DRC in Rwanda due to volcanic activity and more were coming. The government of Rwanda, according to the UN agency, was providing support to the Congolese nationals.

Mount Nyiragongo’s last major eruption was in 2002, killing 250 people and leaving 120,000 homeless. Its deadliest was in 1977, when 600 people died.