Higher Education, just like any other sector right now, is being turned upside down by the pandemic. Some Universities have seen some students return, some are deciding to not have students back and then there are some who can't afford to have students back.
A surprising twist has also be seen in pass rates and attendance looking better than they did when contact teaching and learning programmes were in place, or rather with the old normal.
At the University of Johannesburg (UJ), it was found that more students attended online classes than they did contact. Another improvement found, in the middle of a pandemic, was that the pass rate for undergraduate students grew since 2019 from 86.3% to 84.7%.
Spokesperson for UJ, Herman Esterhuizen, said, "However, the start for the 2021 academic year might be affected with the recent news that higher education institutions will most likely only receive the final Grade 12 results late in February 2021, instead of the first week of January."
The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) made the decision to continue an online teaching and learning programme as far as possible. The University has an around 80% attendance when it came to online classes between April and August.
Wits' spokesperson, Shirona Patel, said, "A revised almanac has been circulated - the majority of students will complete the academic year in 2020. For those who cannot complete by December, the calendar has been extended into 2021 to ensure that all students are accommodated. Additional bootcamps and study support programmes will be run to ensure that students finish".
However, the Universities which are labelled as historically black institutions are seen to not be progressing as well. At the University of Fort Hare (UFH) it was said that online learning resources are available but, "Unfortunately others who reside in areas that experience frequent disruptions or generally poor network or electricity connectivity have not been able to participate fully", said UFH's spokesperson.
Then, there are Universities such as the University of Pretoria which are choosing to not have contact classes due to the regulations on gatherings. The spokesperson for the University of Pretoria which was identified as low risk, Rikus Delport, said that despite that, they have decided to not have contact classes. This decision came from a survey done where most of the staff and students at the University said that the move to online learning was easy for them.
The University of Cape Town will also be finishing their academic year through remote learning. Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Associate Professor Lis Lange, has said due to the country is currently experiencing the predicted peak and another likely in August, the necessary social distancing would make in-person teaching impossible.
These Universities are however allowing students who need to access on-campus facilities to finish the academic year back.
With Universities who are taking the option to have students back on campuses, Universities South Africa (USAf) CEO, Ahmed Bawa, said that they're hoping to not see outbreaks on campuses and that should they happen, there is hope that the Universities and Departments of Health will be able to cope with it.