‘Lockdown has been tough – but my confidence and study skills have improved through lockdown restrictions’

DMU student Sahar Hussain tells Pythias Makonese that although she has struggled during lockdown, it has taught her many valuable lessons.

Sahar Hussain, 21, is currently doing a Masters in Research Applied Health Studies at De Montfort University. 

“I have been here for four years-the first three years were for my degree and now my one year for my masters,” she says.

She thinks the COVID 19 pandemic had many adverse effects on people in general, including herself. Being locked down and learning online makes uni life difficult, she says.

“There have been many effects on my studies and I think the biggest one has been trying to understand the lectures we have had, especially now some of the modules are completely new and we need more time to grasp them,” she says.

Sahar Hussain in the library: “I have found the lockdown tough – but it has improved my study skills.”

In terms of her education, she has found that her assignments are harder to complete – mainly because she finds it harder to concentrate during long online lectures.

“For me, personally, it has been the online activities and workshops we have to do that I have found most difficult,” she says.

“For example, I find it very hard to concentrate during online lectures compared to when I am attending lectures within the classroom.  I think students can be distracted especially when they are by themselves on a computer,” she says.

Sahar claims the effects of online learning have affected her quite severely.

However, using the library as her primary source of work and research has been helpful, she says.

“During lockdown I have noticed that the library has been a lot quieter and I have been coming to the library Monday to Friday – every single day due to there being fewer resources at home,” she says. 

She found disturbances at home unbearable because of different people coming in and out of the house . And at home her wif-if was slow. It made studying and watching online lectures even more difficult.

“I think one of the biggest lessons I have learnt is to be more independent to try to find better and more suitable ways to study. My confidence and study skills have improved through lockdown restrictions,” she say

 Sahar believes that the arrival of the vaccine will help to ease the lockdown. However, she still recommends that extra care is needed.

“I think we still need to be very careful with social distancing and putting on masks. We must take these measures because we are still currently not done at all with this pandemic,” she says.

Only leave your home if you have to, says Sahar. She only leaves her accommodation to study, go to the library and fetch essentials.

Sahar Hussain highly commends how DMU has handled the COVID-19 situation – especially with the introduction of the hardship fund.

Demon TV releases series of DSU election candidate interviews

By Thomas Carter

De Montfort University’s student-run television station, Demon TV, hosted a series of interviews with the candidates standing in this week’s DSU elections.

The virtual interviews were streamed live across YouTube and Facebook, with viewers being able to pose questions to the hopeful Students’ Union candidates.

In addition to set questions from the Demon Media news team, interviewees faced off in direct debate with their counterparts, discussing issues such as student welfare, DSU funding, Covid-19 support and campus life.

Ethan Sandy, Station Manager for Demon TV, said: “The interviews this year went really well. We did five live streams throughout the week and had great engagement from students and between candidates.

“This is important as it allows candidates a space to advertise themselves to potential voters and more importantly for students to get an idea of who to vote for.”

Demon TV hosted live streams interviewing candidates throughout last week (Credit: Demon TV)

Election booths were opened at 9am today (TUES,MAR9) and candidates were keen to win the votes of their peers in what were the final stages of the campaign process.

Positions up for election include the Executive Officer team (Academic Officer, Welfare Officer etc) as well as wider democratic roles, including LGBTQ+ officer and Liberation representatives.

“Students need to vote so that any changes they think need to happen can do,” Ethan added.

“The university and union is there for them, so they need to have their say in how it’s run and the issues it should cover to make their student experience the best it can be.”

Even though Covid-19 restrictions have prevented many students from returning to campus during the campaign period, measures have been relaxed allowing voting booths to be open on campus.

For more information on the DSU elections or to access any of the candidate interviews with Demon Media, go to: https://www.demontfortsu.com/elections/news/

Jessica’s virtual DMU soccercise sessions seen as success following switch online

By Tracey Ugwueru

A member of the women’s DMU football squad took the lead to run online football sessions after she took on the role of Soccercise activator but was then faced with Covid restrictions.

Jessica McEvoy, 20, set up a link from the DMU Women’s Football Club WhatsApp group as part of the DMUactive blackboard online programme which students can access easily using their username and password.

Soccercise is run by the university and is part of DMU active which offers free exercise sessions for all students.

It is usually held at the Watershed building near the campus but now has to be done virtually due to Covid restrictions.

Jessica said: “I went to Soccercise a lot last year and really enjoyed it and volunteered to be this year’s activator.”

Students do not have to be a regular attendant to participate at all, they just need to have an interest.

No full kit is required but comfortable clothing is needed, participants need to take breaks when needed, and need to be in a suitable environment to avoid any accidents.

Jessica said feedback from the group has been very positive and students have said it has helped their mental health improve immensely over the term.

Other members of the team have created social groups where the participants can join in on other activities to ease the impact of Covid-19 and self-isolation rules.

As a take on for next year, she said this virtual football session will continue to progress as the team grows more motivated to get active and stay fit.

For more information contact the DMU women’s football division or DMUactive.

Hypocrisy and neglect: The government’s handling of student COVID-19 testing

DMU journalism student Samuel Hornsby gives his opinion on the contradictions of coronavirus testing for uni students.

Photograph by Tim Dennell: Accessed via Creative Commons.

Down by the River Soar sits The Watershed, a building which usually houses sports events for De Montfort University.

Recently, though, as there have been no sporting events, the budding has been transformed into an NHS Test and Trace centre capable of mass testing for students and staff alike.

Before returning to in-person teaching, students are required to undergo two lateral flow tests taken three days apart – and the facility is offering booked appointments at the venue to test all students.

For those travelling back to in-term accommodation for upcoming face-to-face study it is ideal. Only a short walk from the campus and the building can handle the high capacity of rapid tests that are imperative to ensure an outbreak does not occur.

Everything seems peachy – until you factor in commuting students. For them being tested prior to returning isn’t a simple as one may initially think.

If such a student had to travel in for the test on public transport and then tested positive, then they are knowingly putting people in danger when travelling back. Clearly, this is not an ideal or practical situation.

However, the university has clarified if there are local testing facilities nearer to the student’s home, they can use those instead. This seems to be the ideal solution to the problem and minimises risk.

Unfortunately trying to get tested locally as a university student is a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare with each department just as bewildered and confused as the last who throw you from person to person like a game of pass-the-parcel.

Let’s go through the journey of finding out where you can get tested locally and try not to pull your hair out in frustration.

The natural place to start is the government booking website where you put in your postcode and then get sent to the page of your relevant county council. On there it lists all the testing sites. When you search up said sites you realise although they are called walk-in centres you still have to book before the test. Fine. There’s a phone number so this shouldn’t be a problem.

The phone number does not go through to the testing centre and is instead a generic NHS number. They have a list of testing sites but not how to book at those sites, so they recommend contacting the district council. This is because they are a smaller body that should know more about specific local testing in your area. Turns out they don’t.

District Councils only have the same list as the NHS which provides the names of facilities without any further information, but they do give you the government website to book through. A huge leap forward, it’s just a shame that leap is into a previously unseen pit.

When booking through the government website you have to provide a reason for why you wish to be tested.

Reasons include: being an essential worker, showing symptoms of coronavirus or have been invited to receive a test as part of a trail amongst other possible criteria.

School students are also allowed to have access to such tests through booking, but this excludes university students who if they do not any other criteria will be greeted with a message of not being eligible to book a test at this point in time.

This begs the question as to why they cannot access local testing centres, especially when school children, as well as sixth form and college students, can. It was the same government policy that told them to go back to in-person education. That policy didn’t specify university or school, it simply said ‘students’, yet where they get easily accessible testing, university students do not.

If you are lucky enough to live in a city, then you may find yourself able to access a non-bookable community asymptomatic testing site for those living in rural areas these are not an option as they only cater to the boroughs in which they are set up.

Furthermore, to rub that extra bit of salt in the wound, to order a home test kit from the government website you must once again fall under a category from the aforementioned list of criteria that excludes those at university.

When trying to find a way to test locally an NHS staff member on the phone admitted they have had to tell people to simply lie in order to get the tests they require. They confessed it may not be moral but they aren’t being given other options.

So, if you are a commuting student, good luck, stay safe and cross your fingers the government will be more consistent with their next set of COVID-19 policies.

DMU offers free COVID-19 lateral flow tests to returning staff and students

By Khrista Davis

De Montfort University is welcoming staff and students back to campus from Monday, March 8, and is offering lateral flow tests every week to support the re-introduction of face to face classroom learning.

Students and staff have to take two tests as soon as they arrive back on campus and will then need to book two tests every week thereafter in a move to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19.

The university has re-opened a testing site inside The Watershed building, in Upperton Road, and bookings need to be made in advance via the MyDMU website. All testing will be carried out during the hours of 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays.

Testing has resumed on campus

Site Manager of The Watershed, Daljit Kaur, said: “We envisage that it is going to get busier simply because the government has proposed that students need to be tested twice a week. The last few weeks have been fairly quiet and now with other areas opening up we have seen an increase of numbers.

“But we are not at full capacity, so we have no concerns in terms of how we are going to manage it to make sure that the site is not compromised in terms of safety and maintain a sterile environment; we have certain procedures in place.”

The site is an asymptomatic centre therefore tests are only for those who have no symptoms of the virus.

Students and staff are being advised to bring a form of ID, a mobile phone or other device, wear a face mask and flat shoes for health and safety reasons and if possible, bring personal alcohol hand rub to clean their hands before testing.

She added: “I think it is really, really important that students and staff take these lateral flow tests because while it can’t stop you from getting COVID-19, at least you know that if you come displaying no symptoms and your test proves positive then as far as I am concerned that is a really good result for us, because it means that you were unaware you had the virus and by notifying you, we are containing it.

“My advice to anyone who is apprehensive or nervous about testing would be, let your feet bring you to the door, don’t over-think it. Every member of staff here is so welcoming and so warm, everyone is very patient, there is no rush.

“Our main aim is to ensure that the test is conducted as accurately as possible, so if that takes you two minutes, twenty minutes or even one hour it is fine. I just want to make sure the experience is good for the staff and students. We will adjust our approach as required.

“Having a swab pushed down your throat or up your nose is not the most comfortable of experiences, however if you need to take as long as you need to, you can.

“It does make it easier for us when people are upfront about their anxieties towards testing and may need extra assistance. That really helps us as we can ensure that someone is able to help that person throughout the entire journey.”