Lebanese campuses are starting to buzz with student life as universities revert to full or partial in-person teaching after more than a year of virtual classes imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Extensive vaccination programs paved the way for a gradual return to seemingly normal campus life, despite the hassles caused by severe shortages of fuel and frequent power and Internet cuts.
“It is such a good feeling to be back on campus and to reconnect with people,” said Sari Chmaytelli, a psychology student at the American University of Beirut. “I am seeing friends that I have met two years ago. It was like a reunion and getting to know each other again.”
“Many students, especially those residing outside Beirut, are returning to campus because power and Internet are available all the time,” Chmaytelli said. “Due to the fuel shortage and the hassle of commuting they are staying with friends or at the university’s dorms.”
In most of Beirut, electricity is available for only one or two hours a day, and motorists can wait in line for four hours to buy gasoline. But the American University of Beirut has its own giant power generators and has been able to obtain enough diesel fuel to operate them because the university hospital is the largest in the city. (See a related article, “Crisis Puts Lebanon’s University Hospitals at Risk of Forced Shutdowns.”)
In September, classes were still delivered online except for labs, studios, workshops, seminars and exams, which were done in person on campus. Around 90 percent of the university’s people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, however, and the target is to exceed 95 percent to allow full resumption of in-person classes on October 1.
Free Vaccination for All
“We are following a gradual approach for a safe return to campus,” Zaher Dawy, the university’s provost, said in an interview through mail. “Since the start of the fall semester (on August 30), the campus has been open to all vaccinated students. Student life is back to campus and all student services are being revived including clubs and societies, dorms, and athletic facilities and activities.”