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What Is The Department Doing For Higher Education During Covid-19?

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Students all over the country have been instructed to stay home and have had their academic programmes continue online. Many are waiting for the Department of Higher Education to make moves, so what have they done for Higher Education?

Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, announced in a briefing that the department has been working hard during May towards saving the academic year while also saving lives. This has lead them to be wrapped in a challenge governed by many difficult decisions such as when to let University and TVET College students return, which for some is soon.

University students will be returning to campus in phases with the first group already at campus since 11 May while having all institutions start remote learning from 1 June. TVET College students will also see a phased approach with the first group of students heading back to campus on 10 June.

The department has been trying to come up with creative and accessible solutions while also having students returning be safe. 

As for Universities, Nzimande has said, "Work is continuing and there is significant progress in this regard. Each institution is committed to ensuring that all students are given a fair opportunity to complete academic year 2020". Universities have therefore been delivering paper-based resources to students with no access to online learning and this will be increased from 1 June as they finalise which students need it. 

Plans to ensure institutions are ready for assessments and the costs involved with these plans have been submitted to the department and is being prioritised. Nzimande announced that these costs will be part of a Special Covid-19 Responsiveness Grant. 

NSFAS students and students who are registered at public institutions are receiving data and devices to make online learning work for them. However, this leaves missing middle and private institution students out. Government is looking to provide for them. On these, the Minister said that government is not in a position to pay for their resources but are looking to partner with mobile network providers to offer affordable packages to these students. 

Nzimande also announced that his department is working to establish a higher education loan scheme that is affordable and will involve the private sector as well. 

The Minister wanted to remind those present that, "The lockdown is not made to punish people. It's to save lives. We therefore urge everybody to abide by this."

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