After two and a half years of being on a spasmodic roller-coaster ride, many schools including The University of the West Indies have reopened their classrooms for face-to-face learning. Following the arrival of COVID-19 to the Caribbean, the doors to classrooms, labs and libraries were forced shut to contain the spread of the virus. Residential students were sent home, leaving halls empty and the campuses lifeless. At Mona, the silence grew deafening as the once vibrantly populated campus was no longer filled with the bellows of the effervescent young men and women who drowned their academic sorrows in laughter.
The student’s union became a still silent place. Illegal footpaths on the lawn, created by those who were often in a mad rush to class or simply too lazy to use the designated path, were reclaimed by the grass and other flora. The Mona Bowl lost its patrons and the once manicured football field and cricket pitch were overgrown due to their lack of use. Gyms and other enclosed structures saw an increase in the spider and lizard population as the word spread among Anansi and his cohorts that the campus had been abandoned.
COVID-19 not only evacuated the classrooms, labs, libraries and halls of residence, but also the food outlets. Burger King, Little Caesars and KFC were among some of the prime food providers that went out of business on the Campus since the pandemic. Can you imagine KFC of all places, Jamaica’s national restaurant? Without a doubt, COVID-19 did make an indelible mark on the campus, but it is not one that Mona cannot recover from.
Today marks the beginning of a new normal living with COVID-19. The Mona Campus welcomes the resumption of face-to-face learning, reclaiming its old normal while maintaining some aspects of the new modes of interaction acquired during COVID. Once empty spaces are being rejuvenated. Horns blowing, students’ laughter and the sounds of music dispel the cobwebs and scatter the lizards. UWI Museum welcomes incoming students, both the new and returning students (some of whom have never stepped foot on the campus). We wish you a successful and safe academic year.