The introduction of Covid-19 policies by different tertiary institutions is one of many moves being made to ensure the safe return to campus for university-goers.
This comes at a time when institutions are beginning to realise that they have to come to terms with how the pandemic has transformed the education sector, and that solely online learning may not continue to be sustainable.
The first university to share these sentiments in their Covid-19 policy is the University of the Free State (UFS):
In their policy, they state the following: “The UFS believes that it is not economically viable or practical to maintain social distancing indefinitely” and that the institution “supports a blended learning approach, but a sole online learning platform is not viable.”
As for their stance on vaccinations, the university “has decided to make it a requirement for all…to be vaccinated to access its premises”, and to be granted access to campus, students will have to produce proof of vaccination or documents that offer sufficient grounds for vaccine exemption.
So as to support these sentiments, they have drafted a policy that includes the following points:
- All UFS employees, ad-hoc contract workers, service providers, and students are to maintain precautionary health measures as required within the workplace and in all common areas of the UFS premises.
- Sufficient supply of hand sanitisers will be made available on the premises.
- All stakeholders should apply proper ventilation in all UFS venues when possible.
- All employees will be supplied with the necessary PPE based on their job description and risk assessment of their working environment.
- All are to wear an N95 mask for the duration of their presence on the UFS campus.
- All who are not vaccinated, but who possess an approved exemption will have to complete a compulsory Covid-19 screening questionnaire before entering the UFS premises.
- All unvaccinated individuals wishing to access the UFS campus should have a valid permit and QR code to access the premises.
Above are some of the most important points stipulated in the university’s Covid-19 policy, the rest of which can be found here.
The requirements are based on the university's desire to “maintain a safe and healthy environment for all its stakeholders and…to return to function as a (predominantly) face-to-face contact university”.
The next university to have recently announced an interim Covid-19 policy for the 2022 academic year is the University of the Western Cape (UWC):
This policy was approved by the Council of the University of the Western Cape on Thursday, 25 November 2021. In essence, the policy “highlights that the majority of stakeholders have advocated for the resumption of in-person learning and teaching”.
As such, the following is to be implemented:
- A Soft Mandate will apply wherein staff and students will need to be vaccinated in order to enter campus or university-related events.
- Unvaccinated students will still be able to register for courses but will not be granted access to campus or university-related events.
- A Hard Mandate will apply only to students taking courses that require in-person/contact learning, such as those in the Faculty of Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy programmes, and so on. This mandate will require that students be vaccinated in order to register. Under this mandate, students will be allowed to register if they can provide proof that they have already received at least one vaccine dose before the 1st of March 2022.
- Flexible online learning and teaching will continue in most faculties in 2022.
- No employee, student or service provider shall gain physical access to the campus without a vaccination card or a certificate confirming that they have received their vaccination.
- All individuals will be required to continue to maintain all social distancing and other relevant covid-19 protocols whilst on campus.
These are the most important proposals within the policy, however, more information regarding the requirements surrounding vaccine exemption can be found on the official policy document here.
The next university to have recently announced a Covid-19 policy for the 2022 academic year is the University of Cape Town (UCT):
From the 1st of January 2022, UCT is set to implement a mandatory Vaccination Policy, under which a proof of vaccination will become a requirement for students to be able to register, and for staff to be able to perform their duties.
This comes after the UCT Senate voted overwhelmingly in favour of mandatory vaccination in September of this year, with 83% of respondents indicating support.
Since South African law has not made vaccination mandatory, UCT’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng acknowledges the possibility of being brought to court as a result.
She also shares that UCT is prepared to adhere to requirements if told that their mandatory vaccination policy is not within the parameters of the law.
She does, however, maintain that “we cannot spend a third year without in-person engagement”. Principles and guidelines regarding exemption from the policy are yet to be set.
Finally, although a policy has yet to be released, the Central University of Technology (CUT) have shared their own stance on vaccination policy:
The university’s spokesperson, Dan Maritz shared the following:
“The position of the university regarding the vaccination, as we know the Section 12 of the constitution under correction, says that nobody should be forced into any scientific or medical experimentation without prior consent. That in a sense that’s the right we cannot take for ourselves as a university.”
He does, however, maintain that the university would still want to encourage students to get vaccinated voluntarily, saying: “...we are in the process of engaging with our stakeholders, to ensure that we are able to maximise the participation of our students and staff in this drive”.