Final year students and those graduating in 2020 may return to campus under level 3 lockdown.
Briefing the media on measures in response to COVID-19, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, said under level 3 which is still to be announced, a maximum of 33% of the students will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences.
He told the media this is on condition that the tertiary institutions are in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the department.
Another group of student free to return to university once the country is downgraded from level 4 include the final year and postgraduate students who require access to laboratories, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to the residence and private accommodation.
“Students in all years of study that require clinical training in their programmes provided that the clinical training platforms have sufficient space and can accommodate them while adhering to the safety protocols,” he explained.
He said a two to three weeks period would be given after the level 3 announcement depending on the readiness and capacity of each institution.
“Should level 3 be announced to begin on 15 June, then students would be recalled to start two to three weeks thereafter. In other words, a period of two to three weeks will be given to allow students to travel back to their campuses and institutions to ensure that the campuses are effectively prepared for the return.”
The Minister said he would publish guidelines in terms of the Disaster Management Act to permit such travel that will be issued by institutions.
“It is critical that we adhere to these criteria to ensure that campuses are ready for students to safely return, and the effective health screening, cleaning protocols are in place to keep everyone safe.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa is currently in consultations with different stakeholders, as the country gets ready to move from level 4 to level 3 of the national lockdown.
Meanwhile, Nzimande said all the other students would be supported through remote multimodal teaching, learning and assessment until they can return to campus.
“It is recognised that some institutions may identify other groups of students in line with their particular contexts. However, any deviation from these criteria must be approved by my department and must fall within a maximum of 33% of the student population.”
He acknowledged COVID-19 has disrupted the 2020 academic year but said they were determined to salvage what is left of it while saving lives.
“I would like to reiterate that our sector’s response to COVID-19 is guided by measures announced by the National Command Council (NCC) and approved by Cabinet,” he added.
Level 4 (Started 1 May 2020)
Under level 4, medical students have been returning to clinical training platforms from 11 May, and other final students in other programmes requiring clinical training will begin returning from 1 June 2020.
“All other students are supported through remote multimodal teaching, learning and assessment until they can return to campus.”
Nzimande said when a district moves to level 2 of the strategy, then the reintegration of the next group of students to return to contact tuition on campuses located in that district will take place according to the following criteria.
“Once again, a two week period will be given to allow students to travel back to their campuses and for institutions to ensure that the campuses are effectively prepared for the reintegration.”
The department said a maximum of 66% of the student population will return to campus for teaching, learning and assessment in line with the following criteria under this level.
The group will include students in all years of study who require laboratory and technical equipment to complete the academic year, students in all years of study who require practical placements, experiential and workplace-based learning to complete the academic year provided the workplaces and platforms are open and prepared.
First-year students in all undergraduate programmes will also go back.
“Again, institutions may also consider selected return of other categories of students to residences who may face extreme difficulties in their home learning environments provided that the above categories are prioritized, and all safety and logistical requirements are met.”
In the same way, when level 1 is announced, a two-week period will be given in order for students to travel back to their campuses and for institutions to ensure that the campuses are effectively prepared for the reintegration.
All students should return to campus.
“We are therefore going to require the strictest enforcement of physical distancing and health protocols,” he said, adding that guidelines will be outlined in the Government Gazette.
The department has facilitated the training of almost 17 750 frontline health workers, the leadership and membership of trade unions, and shop stewards on dealing with COVID-19.
Remote multi-modal teaching and learning plans
Nzimande said all public universities have developed detailed strategies for remote multimodal teaching and learning during the period of the current lockdown.
“Institutions have developed their detailed institutional plans, as each institution is unique and we cannot follow a ‘one size fits all’ approach,” he said.
The department is working with institutions and committed to ensuring that all students are given a fair opportunity to complete the academic year 2020.
“University Teaching, Learning, Assessment and Campus Readiness Plans have been submitted to the department along with a detailed costing of the additional funding required to implement them,” he said, adding that they are currently reviewing them. – SAnews.gov.za