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Across China: African students, teachers defend Wuhan universities against COVID-19

(Xinhua)    11:16, June 20, 2020

WUHAN, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Ndjike Pierre Paulin, a Cameroonian national, carefully sanitized every floor of the accommodation area of international students in Hubei University of Technology, carrying a blue container filled with 20 liters of disinfectant on his back.

In recent days, the disinfection work has been reduced for Ndjike, who is a student coordinator of the university, from once a day between January and April to twice a week, as the COVID-19 epidemic waned in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province.

"Earlier, I had to refill the container at least five times to disinfect all seven buildings, each of which is four or six stories tall. And, it took me more than two hours every day," Ndjike said, recalling the time when the outbreak was at its peak.

When Wuhan enforced a lockdown on Jan. 23, most of the university's staff were on their Spring Festival vacation and were unable to return due to the entry restrictions. Ndjike and two of his Chinese colleagues, who were among the few staying on the campus, took the initiative to guard the international students against the virus.

"I never thought about leaving. The university has done a lot to help me, so I should stay back and help them," said the 30-year-old Cameroonian, who has been studying and working in the university for four years.

During the lockdown, Ndjike used to get up at 7 a.m. to carry out disinfection and to check on every student to ensure they are safe. The arduous daily chores wouldn't allow Ndjike to rest until midnight. Sometimes he would also try and help relieve the mounting anxiety among quarantined students through chats.

"I saw the solidarity between Chinese and foreigners in Wuhan. Everyone wants to do something for society. And all the people are disciplined," said Ndjike.

Huang Yongjun, vice dean of the university's School of International Education, said after several rounds of evacuations due to the outbreak, 277 of their 1,035 international students stayed back on the campus, 95 percent of whom are from Africa. None of them was infected.

Many African students volunteered to alleviate the severe manpower shortage on the campus.

Since January, Osei Ebenezer Yaw from Ghana has taken on responsibilities like delivering groceries and topping-up electricity cards for other students.

"It is impressive that Wuhan was locked down very quickly. And soon after that, free masks, food and water were provided to us," observed the 21-year-old who is pursuing his bachelor's in international economics and trade.

Students believe a first-hand experience could help the world better understand what transpired in the virus-ravaged city.

"I used to know 'lockdown' just as a word and I never thought I would experience it practically in my life," said Henok Neguse Negash, an Eritrean Ph.D. student at the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. He had to shelter his winter vacation plan of visiting other Chinese cities due to the lockdown.

"The initial three to four days were difficult. But the university kept us informed and created online shopping platforms. Besides, doctors were available online to assist us. I then got used to the new normal of living behind closed doors," recalled Negash.

Confined to his apartment, Negash used to unwind by strumming his guitar, doing exercises, chatting with friends, and writing diary entries. Negash, along with some of his other foreign friends, chronicled the unfolding events since the beginning of the virus outbreak, in the form of a group diary.

"Some of us traveled abroad and are unable to return to Wuhan, some are living away from their spouse for months, and some were stranded at home. We candidly recorded our experiences," he said.

Negash is also working on another book based on his own diary, in which he penned down stories that touched him.

"I remember the night when Wuhan people waved flashlights from their phones and shouted 'Wuhan Jiayou' (Wuhan stay strong) from their windows. I cried. The solidarity was remarkable," he said.

"It is also touching to see that after China controlled the outbreak, it started to help other countries. Masks and protective suits were sent from China to Africa, Europe, America and so on, which helped a lot," said Negash.

He hopes to wrap up the two diaries by the end of summer.

"The city is getting back to normal. The time has come for Wuhan to smile again, and I cannot wait to eat my favorite hot-dry noodles."

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Zhao Tong, Bianji)

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