As a result of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, many students are concerned about how the 2021 academic year will pan out at universities. Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande briefed the media on this matter on 18 January.
He said that higher education institutions have faced many challenges due to the effects of Covid-19 but that the leadership at universities and the department have put forward significant efforts to ensure that all students receive a good quality of education despite this.
The Minister proclaimed, "We have a duty to make it a better year" with hopes to not have a repeat of last year.
He reports that 10 universities have completed all teaching and learning activities as well as their examinations in 2020 while the remaining 16 institutions are expected to complete the 2020 academic year at different times.
The Minister said he remains confident that the majority of the institutions will have completed the 2020 academic year in February and the rest will complete it in March 2021.
On the enrolment of the new university students Nzimande said that all institutions have aligned the start of the 2021 academic year with the availability of the NSC examination results which is set to be released 0n 22 February 2021. The start of the 2021 academic year is expected to take place between early March and the middle of April.
Nzimande says that it vital that health and safety protocols are in place for return of students, especially during the period of registration.
Due to the adjusted alert Level 3 lockdown, Nzimande says that those students who are able to study from home should do so, so that large gatherings can be kept at minimum at institutions.
However, those students who unable to study at home due to the home environment being unfavourable for them to learn in have returned to campus and many more will continue to do so.
If a rapid increase of infections or cluster outbreaks are seen on campuses, campuses will close down immediately.
The Department is in the process of collecting information on Covid-19 statistics within the sector.
In the mean time all students are encouraged to make use of safety measures such as keeping a safe physical distance in public spaces, washing or sanitizing their hands regularly and wearing a mask that covers their mouth and nose in public areas.