Prof. Dr. Imad Khatib
While being in the midst of confronting the consequences of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic that has afflicted the entire world which is still suffering from an increase in the number of victims of the epidemic, and a steady rise in infections estimated at tens of millions of infected people, we pray the Almighty Allah to lift this epidemic off us and the entire world and accelerate relief in the whole world.
In the beginning, I would like to pause for a moment to express my gratitude to all colleagues working at the university, including administrators, academics and technicians, for the university’s rapid and efficient response in dealing with the great challenges the pandemic imposed on us and on all our Palestinian institutions and society. In dealing with the spread of the pandemic, the university administration has demonstrated the ability to take responsibility in the face of the sudden unexpected events that have negative consequences on all aspects of life and without prejudice to the performance of our noble mission. This is not surprising for our university, which previously went through emergency circumstances during which it proved that its staffs are able to continue to fulfill its noble mission.
In the past three decades, universities have been globally able to promote a societal transformation that was characterized by innovation and leadership in promoting competition between nations, imposing terms such as innovation economics and startup companies. As well, during the last decade the smart phone has strengthened a societal transformation that has become a characteristic of electronic communication, transcending geographical and political boundaries and imposing a new and powerful term called populism. As for the Corona pandemic, it imposed, within less than six months, radical transformations in behavior and societal culture, thus introducing terms like social distance, virtual meetings, distance education and digital behavior to start a new era with the prevailing term “digital transformation”.
These accelerated transformations should constitute an opportunity for universities on more than one level. The first level is the development of teaching and learning methods to ensure that the graduate is equipped with the competencies he/she needs to compete in the digital labor market. The second is to work on enhancing the decision-maker’s recognition of the future role of universities in making the competing national capital, on the one hand, and enhancing its ability to actively contribute to facing any sudden pandemic, through supporting innovation and scientific research, on the other hand.
As for our university, it should be pointed out that the university administration’s rapid decision to transit from face to face to online learning within less than two days, a decision which was made through communication around the clock between the university’s components, made us take decisions with high professionalism and with the least possible damage. The effort of the Crisis Management Cell at the university and the interaction of the teaching and administrative staff have proven a level of responsibility and courage since it was announced that Palestine would be affected by the pandemic and the start of emergency measures at the beginning of March, 2020.
Our great appreciation and gratitude is directed at the beginning to colleagues, faculty members and administrative staff, who worked tirelessly from the first moment to develop their methods of distance education, and their moral support for university students through their virtual communication with them to maintain their academic progress. Secondly, our gratitude and appreciation go to our dear students who were up to the responsibility for their flexibility and patience in such exceptional circumstances, and for pursuing distance education despite the many technical and non-technical challenges. Our appreciation is also for the Council of the Students' Union of our University, which was close to the university administration in dealing with the sudden crisis, and had a distinctive impact on our overcoming the trauma of the pandemic and maintaining the quality of education outcomes.
What saddened us most during the past six months is that some of our colleagues and students have been infected with the epidemic, and some of them have lost loved ones who have contracted the epidemic, Allah's mercy on them. During these difficult times that we have passed and we and the entire world are still facing, the colleagues of technicians, academics, researchers and our students who have sensed the danger of the epidemic to those standing in the first line of defense to confront the spread of the epidemic, whether from the health or security cadres, took the initiative of protecting them through innovations to isolate the injured or transfer them to health centers or contribute to enhancing their ability to conduct laboratory examinations. Their professional interventions have had a positive impact. Therefore, our thanks and appreciation goes to all of them for their great efforts.
In the end, the pandemic has proven that knowledge, education and awareness are the primary factors in enhancing the ability of the community to face challenges with the least losses. We are hopeful that despite all the negative effects this pandemic brought with, what comes after it will be good, Allah willing.
May Allah protect and save Palestine, its people, and all humanity from every disease and epidemic.