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Minister Discusses State of Higher Education Mid-Pandemic

nzimande

Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande spoke at a press conference as The Social Cluster details its plans during the 21-day national lockdown. Nzimande discussed the impact of Covid-19 on higher education and plans being put in place. 

Nzimande spoke at a press conference outlining details of plans being implemented during the 21-day national lockdown. He highlighted the contributions his Ministry has made through his sector. 

The Minister has approved a task team on post-school education and training that is lead by the Deputy Minister. This task team is representative of students, Vice Chancellors, TVET College principals, trade unions and other stakeholders who are part of the sector. 

TVET Colleges

TVET Colleges are currently closed as agreed upon last week. Following the President's address, students have embarked on an early recess on 18 March and TVET Colleges were said to open on 15 March. However, necessary arrangements have been made with TVET Colleges to adjust these dates as well as exam dates. 

The Department of Higher Education is in the process of assessing which colleges need the most assistance in order to have further plans be put in place.

Universities

Universities have implemented early recesses and have also given students until 20 March to vacate their respective residences. This has however resulted in Universities receiving backlash from students. Nzimande commented that students should know that institutions are not unaware of the challenges this presents but rather made the decisions they did because it was what needed to be done for the health of everyone. 

Most academic staff are working from home. Only essential staff are on campuses as well as minimal support staff where required. 

Some universities are assisting students with financial difficulties if they need to get home. 

All universities will assess the coronavirus situation at the end of the month and then decisions will be made on what further preparations will be needed. 

SA Students Who Returned From Wuhan

76 students have returned from Wuhan on 14 March. It has been announced by the Minister of Health that they have all tested negative for the Coronavirus and final tests will be done this weekend. A further 80 South African students returned on 20 March from China who were on various TVET College programmes. They have all been placed in quarantine and are waiting for test results. 

Online Learning

There are plans in place for higher education institutions to make use of online learning. This is to ensure that students won't be far behind in their studies. There are preparations being made in Universities of online methods to ensure continuity in so far as research activities. 

International Students

International students are being treated on a case-by-case basis. Students who are not able to return home are being accommodated by Universities and residences.

NSFAS Allowances

NSFAS allowances are still being paid to Universities and TVET Colleges and from there to students. The suspension of classes does not mean that students' NSFAS allowances are suspended as well. 

Skills Development

They have given instructions to the SETAs and the Skills Fund. For all funded training, they need to ensure that they follow the President's directives. This means that they met with the previous requirements of no more than 100 people in one place and must now respect the lockdown. 

Higher Health

An organisation called, 'Higher Health', has been created. It was initially an initiative of universities but now also involves TVET Colleges and works with College Principals and University Vice Chancellors. The organisation follows the developments of Covid-19 as well assisting institutions and health facilities in institutions to make sure they are able to respond to challenges the virus presents. 

Science and Innovation

Progress has been made to support Covid-19 initiatives and it has become very urgent for this sector to remanufacture reagents for testing kits and they are currently being imported. They are monitoring the way the pandemic is evolving and the effect it has on people who are more vulnerable. 

They also recognise that it is important to monitor the HIV and TB patients and levels in the country as South Africa has high levels of these diseases. 

Public

Nzimande has stated that the public's attitude towards the virus is of utmost importance and that it is important to identify false stories so that they can know when to intervene. 

 

 

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