With people observing social distancing and movements restricted, Christine was quick to embrace Zoom to reach out to students for psychosocial health support.
When Christine Tusaba Kanyange, a clinical psychologist, was contracted to join the School of Nursing and Midwifery (SONAM), Kampala campus in 2018 as a student-counsellor, her brief was to ensure students were able to access psychosocial health support services.
Everything was going according to plan for the student-counsellor until COVID-19 came knocking.
This led to the closure of schools and businesses and toutine activities coming to a halt. The toll on the mental and psychosocial health of many was immense.
Before the disruption, she had planned face-to-face counselling sessions with students and was planning to have topics of interest uploaded onto the Moodle platform for students to access in their free time.
“When the lockdown hit, the university had to get creative in its approach to offering counselling support services,” says Ms Kanyange, who has been practicing clinical and psychological interventions for the last 30 years.
“We started off by using the available student’s contacts, calling to find out how they were coping with the restrictions and pandemic in general, and provided support on phone with regard to coping strategies”
With people observing social distancing and movements restricted, the Directorate of Student Experience in East Africa explored a webinar option of reaching out to students for psychosocial health support. Christine was quick to embrace Zoom for making virtual counselling presentations to the wider student audience in East Africa.
In addition to making good use of the webinar sessions, Christine leveraged on WhatsApp groups to share motivational messages to encourage the students.
“We rolled out this activity which became quite popular with the students from the three AKU campuses in East Africa. We would have alternate sessions with my colleagues, student-counsellors from Kenya as we continued to support students from Tanzania as well.”
Students continually send messages of appreciation to the University and to the counsellors in particular for innovative approaches of providing mental and psychosocial health support amid the pandemic.
“I have received a lot of support from the Directorate of Student Experience and the Registrar’s Office, which is really empowering. This shows that AKU cares for the general wellbeing of the students as part of the Aga Khan University community.”