33% of students given the green light to return to universities from June 1 st.
By Seth Meyer
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 6 of VARSITY News.
With the commencement of Level 3 lockdown measures from the 1st of June, many South African businesses and institutions have begun making plans and moving towards the resumption of activity. Tertiary education is one such sector making developments towards gradual re-opening and making attempts to address the worries amidst the pandemic, with Minister Of Higher Education Blade Nzimande giving a briefing to the media on May 23rd, about the plan for the reopening of the country’s universities and the work being done in response to the many concerns of those affected, namely students.
Nzimande said to the press that the tertiary education sector has adopted the theme, “Save The Academic Year. Save Lives.” He took the time to praise and thank the efforts of President Ramaphosa and the National Command Council (NCC) and addressed several points relevant to those within the tertiary education sector, emphasising the government’s work in ensuring the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) “remained fully operational and continued to disburse allowances to all NSFAS beneficiaries.”
On learning institutions, Nzimande stated that “all public universities have developed detailed strategies for remote multi-modal teaching and learning during the period of the current lockdown” and that “each institution has committed to ensuring that all students are given a fair opportunity to complete the academic year 2020”. According to the Minister, the department is in the process of reviewing the prioritisation of funding to “support the implementation of the teaching and learning plans by 1 June” and that the national agency, Higher Health will be assisting in ensuring that adequate Covid-19 health and safety measures are being implemented “across the PSET system”. Nzimande also reported successful negotiations with mobile network operators to provide data at “favourable rates” to “all NSFAS students”, to be paid for by the government. Nzimande thanked MTN, Cell C, Vodacom and Telkom and added that “in weeks to come, we will give detailed information on how to access these offers.”
Perhaps most significantly, Nzimande announced that under Level 3, “a maximum of 33% of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences on condition that they can be safely accommodated and supported in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the Department,” and detailed the conditional return of various groups such as post-grad and final year students.
UCT has announced its own framework for the return of students to campus with Vice-Chancellor Mamokgheti Phakeng releasing a statement on the 29th of May, describing management’s approach. In this, the Vice-Chancellor stressed Ramaphosa’s caution, remarking that “if you can work or study from home, you should do so to help slow the spread of Covid-19”. The statement goes on to say that “we will notify the groups of students who will be invited to return, and what date you can be back on campus” and noted that students returning to residences “will be required to adhere to the need for quarantine on arrival”.
In the concluding sentences, the Vice-Chancellor gave thanks to the UCT community and noted that “more details will follow over the next few weeks” as well as stating “we estimate that the earliest we could begin to see some staff or students returning to campus will be 1 July 2020.”