Some Universities Are Still Not Having Students Back

Stage 2 allows for Universities to have 66% of the student body back on campus. However, not all Universities have opted to have students back. Last week, the Minister of Higher Education outlined the risk levels at which Universities in South Africa rank according to things such as safety on campuses and also how well they can implement online learning.

Universities such as the University of Pretoria (UP) and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) are still not having students back on campuses even though 66% of students are allowed back during level 2.

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. 

“Consequently, when the university had to pivot to largely online teaching and learning, it was anticipated that it would be relatively easy for lecturers and students. The increase in numbers is welcomed, but the regulation which prohibits the gathering of more than 50 people means we remain unable to resume contact classes; so online classes will continue for this semester," said Delport.

The students which will be returning are only those who need to access labs and campus facilities to finish their courses and will need permission from their faculties to do so.

Students who also had problems with internet connections and devices or were in environments where online learning wasn't going well would also be allowed to come back. 

Along with UCT, TUT will also be following a similar programme. Seniors have returned as well as students with disabilities and students leadership members. 

The University's spokesperson said, "Multi-modal teaching and learning will continue for students. This means that students who have access to devices for digital teaching and learning will be able to use those to study. Alternatively, students must use their printed study material.”

In his media briefing providing updates in higher education for Level 2, Minister Nzimande also identified the levels of risks Universities are on. Indicators for which risk level a University is at include safety on campuses and whether the University can implement multi-modal learning. This could change according to reports as time progresses. 

14 Universities were identified as low risk. These were Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Nelson Mandela University, North West University, Rhodes University, Sol Plaatje University, University of the Western Cape, University of Johannesburg, University of Kwazulu-Natal, University of Pretoria, Unisa, Stellenbosch University, Wits, University of Zululand and University of Cape Town.

6 were identified as medium risk. These were Durban University of Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, University of Mpumalanga, University of Limpopo, University of Free State and University of Venda.

The last 6 were identified as high risk and are Central University of Technology, Mangosuthu University of Technology, University of Fort Hare, Sefako Makgatho University, Vaal University of Technology and Walter Sisulu University.

Rhodes University is one of the Universities which already has plans in place for the return of students. Rhodes' Vice Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, said, “The decision and approach to allowing more students back on campus will be carefully balanced with important contextual factors. In particular, due consideration will be given to the capacity of health care services in the Makana local municipality to deal with any potential upsurge in Covid-19 infection cases."

Rhodes will also be accommodating more students at their residences. The University said, "All returning students will undergo a 10-day quarantine period in a secluded residence. During this period, contact with the students who are already in residences will be prohibited."

The University will also be placing an alcohol ban in place across the campus and social gatherings won't be allowed. 

As for how teaching will continue, "Students will utilise student Wi-Fi to participate in on-line teaching and learning while progression to blended teaching is phased in as the risk subsides."

Minister Nzimande also said that some institutions will end their academic year this year while others might only end in April. However, Nzimande says “that gap is too big”. It is obvious that better resourced institutions will finish earlier which also means that they will take the best off students and leave the rest to other institutions.


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