No student will enter campus without being screened, says higher education deputy minister

  • Universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges are expected to start phasing in the student population from mid-June.
  • But no campus or residence will be allowed to welcome students without being Covid-19 compliant. 
  • The Department of Higher Education and Training says it is aware that some students are unable to participate in e-learning.

Universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) campuses will be expected to have isolation and quarantine facilities set up before students return, according to Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Buti Manamela.

Manamela spoke to Radio702 talk show host Eusebius McKaiser on Wednesday, about plans to save the academic year, while taking safety into consideration. 

From 15 June, under Level 3, a maximum of 33% of students will be allowed to return to campuses and residences as long as they can been accommodated in line with health and safety protocols.

Manamela said all tertiary institutions would be expected to have personal protective equipment (PPEs) in place and would have to deep clean residences, lecture halls and laboratories before welcoming students.

Among the students returning are those in their final year of study who are due to graduate and those requiring access to laboratories, technical equipment and data connectivity. 

Safety

Final-year students in programmes requiring clinical training, particularly in medicine, have been returning since mid-May, Minister Blade Nzimande said at a briefing a week ago, according to a previous News24 report.

TVET students are also expected to be returning, provided their campuses are also safe and Covid-19-compliant. 

Engineering students working toward N6 and N3 certificates are expected to return on 10 June and those doing their N5 and N2 certificates on 15 June. Those doing N6 Business Studies can return from 25 June.

READ | Lockdown: This is government's new plan to allow students back on campuses

"No student will enter campus, at any given moment, without being screened and if they are deemed to be compromised, tested and then isolated or quarantined," Manamela said.

Manamela said university vice-chancellors, student leadership and councils would play a crucial role in in implementing a risk-based strategy of phasing in students, which was why the department had engaged with each sector to get their buy-in. 

He said institutions have been given guidelines to follow to meet Covid-19 regulations.

He added that stakeholders have been helpful and making compromises in order for safety measures to be met in order to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Manamela said the department was hoping that things would return to normal in higher education institutions by October in order for the academic year to be completed. In a worst case scenario, it hopes for the academic year to be completed by April 2021.

Speaking on e-learning which some institutions have started rolling out, Manamela said the pandemic crisis has presented an opportunity for digital learning to students and also to train staff with technology. 

He said it was, however, important for contact classes to resume so that those without any access to the technology and connectivity are afforded the opportunity to complete the academic year.

Manamela said the department was aware of students living in areas with no connectivity and have encouraged that they be prioritised too. 

"Those areas where there are no facilities, we encourage universities taking students from those areas back on campus.

"As soon as we fully reconstitute, hopefully under Level 1, which is our plan. We will then have to have catch-up programmes [and] bootcamps so that everyone should have been given an equal opportunity for them to then ultimately sit for their final assessment," he said.

READ | Blade's plan to save the academic year

Last month, News24 reported that Nzimande detailed a "risk-based plan" to save the 2020 academic year.

He presented the plan to committees in both houses of Parliament which oversee higher education.

- Compiled by Sesona Ngqakamba

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