Last academic year, one of the projects from the Faculty of Science explored the role of frequent and appropriate hand washing as a means of enhancing health in the community. The student’s premise was that since many of the respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections in Bamenda municipality are transmitted through unhygienic conditions (including unwashed/poorly washed hands), one of the ways of enhancing community health was regular and scrupulous hand washing. Even though this was an undergraduate project, by the end of the year, the faculty had published a peer-reviewed article on it (An Institution based assessment of students’ handwashing behavior). It was as if this student had foreseen the advent of the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic where frequent appropriate hand washing would become, for many people around the world, the difference between life and death.

At the beginning of the current academic year, two students (Awa Moses Awa -left picture- of the Department of Microbiology and Awasum Edna Mabel -right picture- of the Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Technology) took up the challenge of producing hand sanitizers as a way of concretizing the work which their colleague did last year but also of enhancing school and community hygiene and health. This gave them a head start over students and staff of other institutions of learning when the coronavirus pandemic showed its ugly head. Their projects were well advanced and these two students, under the mentorship of Mr. Paul Itor and Dr. Michael Alang, formed a multidisciplinary team of students from the Faculty of Science, the School of Health and Medical Sciences and the Faculty of Business and Management Sciences, to work with them. The other students on the team included Chop Caring, Bamu Sandral, Etoh Anzah, Lysias Nakelyong, Praoda, Nfor Carlson, Ndongmu Ephraim, and Cabinda Praoda.

They worked really hard and in less than a week they brought together literature on the production of hand sanitizers, agreed on the composition of active ingredients including and fragrance and colours of the hand sanitizers they wanted to produce. They also decided on the type of packaging, where and how to procure the ingredients and materials. This gave them the opportunity to showcase their ability to work as a team: some members were assigned to do procurement, some to design the label on the bottles, others to source for ingredients and the ‘lead scientists’ to focus on the efficacy of the product.

Members of the university community who were following the process were on hand to ‘taste’ the product which was first distributed to the offices of the university where there were still workers during the school shutdown. Some of the priests of the Archdiocese of Bamenda who were around Big Mankon for a meeting also got a taste of this product and were impressed that the students could produce this in so short a time. Others who heard about this project ordered hand sanitizers from CATUC.

CATUC Hand Sanitizers bottled and ready to be shipped wherever needed.

The lead students of the project, Awa Moses from the Department of Microbiology and Edna Awasum from the Department of Nutrition expressed satisfaction with the project and the members of the team. They said the project had taught them how to better manage team work in spite of their differences, and also the demands of scientific procedures and efficiency necessary for trustworthy results and products. Above all, they had not only found the project exciting and fulfilling (in the sense that they had contributed something that could save the lives of people in the community) but also a great way of self-learning and cooperative learning in science.

Moses completed an analysis of the product to ascertain its efficacy in the elimination of microbes and found that it is very good quality, eliminating above 99% of microorganisms with the 1% not being pathogenic. Furthermore, ex-students and Friends of CATUC are excited that students are made to work on projects like this to solve pertinent problems in the community. We hope that this will encourage other students and their supervisors to work harder on their projects. We never know where our projects could take us.

Hearty congratulations to our Hand Sanitizer Team!