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New Zealand varsities prioritize student education and well-being

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 29-05-2020 15:08 IST | Created: 29-05-2020 15:02 IST
New Zealand varsities prioritize student education and well-being
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During these unprecedented times, New Zealand varsities have taken immediate and effective steps to ensure that students, both national as well as international, receive the best of education while also remaining safe inside their bubble. This is in accordance with International Student Wellbeing Strategy launched in 2017 by New Zealand that further elevates the standard of pastoral care for international students. New Zealand was the first country in the world to implement a Code of Practice for Pastoral Care of International Students, which by law requires education providers to provide certain standards of care for students such as providing accommodation advice and airport transport options for students. The universities have created multiple communication avenues for students to stay in touch. Active online platforms and 24*7 helpline numbers dedicated to students ensure that students can reach out to their respective places of study as required, warranting their safety and well-being.

In response to the Government's guidance on COVID-19, the universities are working closely with their lecturers to reinforce their commitment to students. Shifting Courses Online New Zealand universities have started online lectures and guide students in their way through remote learning. Speaking about this, Damon Salesa, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Pacific, University of Auckland says, "The University of Auckland is taking positive steps forward to support an online learning environment and to help students transition to this new way of leaning." For students' ease and reference, all the online lectures are recorded. The students can coordinate with their course coordinator for feedback or any other query.

Students' Wellness Online portals have been created by Education New Zealand such as AgentLab and NauMai NZ to provide all recent updates and deal with students' queries directly. The University of Otago has a separate website for COVID-19 information providing all essential details on the change of course. Apart from the academic support, an 'International Café' is available for a virtual conversation between students and the international support team.

On the other hand, the University of Waikato has a Student Services Team responsible for sharing news, tips, and tricks to stay well and ways to remain socially connected. The University of Auckland remains in touch with the students through emails and virtual chats to ensure that they are well and are coping up with the new learning environment. On touching the assessment grounds, the University of Auckland has a Student Disability Services team that works with course coordinates to find out alternative solutions for different but equivalent assessment options for students with disabilities.

Financial fund for students With several international students are facing financial instability in lieu of the lockdown, the University of Otago has launched the Pūtea Tautoko financial fund – an initiative to cater to the greatest need in extraordinary times. All students of the university can apply for the fund. Adding to this, Professor Harlene Hayne, Vice-Chancellor, the University of Otago said, "In addition to the University contribution, we will also ask our wider University community, including University staff, alumni, and friends, to contribute to this fund. Our hope is that we can substantially increase the size of the fund so that we are in the best possible position to meet what will be a very high level of student need." Not only this, but Professor Hayne will also be contributing 20 percent of her salary to the fund for the next 6 months.

The Victoria University of Wellington-Te Herenga Waka has also expanded the fund and is now able to pay out twice weekly via direct credit. The hardship fund can help with a range of issues, in addition to COVID-19 related costs such as necessary medical, dental or optical costs, unforeseen family problems, a disability or temporary illness, costs related to teaching experience placements among others.

The University of Auckland has established a $2Million Hardship Fund to support students as they manage their increased costs on their return/arrival to New Zealand. This will be administered through the existing Student Emergency Fund. Students must be in New Zealand to apply to the fund. Encouraging physical and mental health Amidst the lockdown, the University of Otago has initiated virtual fitness classes for students to remain productive and healthy. To keep the faith strong, Associate Professor, University of Waikato, Te Kahautu Maxwell, is conducting a Livestream of karakia, Maori incantations, and prayers, every morning and evening for students.

Researchers' contribution to the COVID-19 fight, On one hand, all New Zealand universities are leading the way for students in these hard times, on the other, several researchers are contributing in their own way to fight the battle of the infectious disease. Dr. Shyamal Das, Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago School of Pharmacy with a team of students volunteered to prepare 100-liters of ethanol-based hand sanitizer for those in need. To support the experts in their endeavors, the New Zealand government has provided a share of $3.8 million for research projects directly related to COVID-19.

Continuing its battle against the pandemic, the University of Otago donated 18,000 masks to the Southern District Health Board (SDHB). About Education New Zealand: Education New Zealand (ENZ) is New Zealand's government agency for international education. ENZ works to grow awareness of New Zealand as a study destination and to support New Zealand education providers and businesses to take their services and products abroad.



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