Universities to move online amid Level 4 - Nzimande

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Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: GCIS
Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande. Picture: GCIS
  • Universities will move online, while TVET colleges will use remote teaching and learning amid the two week-long Level 4 lockdown.
  • Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said this was in line with regulations. 
  • Residences, however, remain open to avoid students travelling and being at risk of contracting the virus. 

Universities across the country will not officially close amid the adjusted Level 4 lockdown but all face-to-face teaching and examinations will come to a halt for the next two weeks amid the Covid-19 third wave, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on Wednesday.

At a media briefing in Pretoria, Nzimande said instead of closing, universities would instead move to online teaching for all students, in line with the regulations.

He added residences would also remain open as it was not safe for students to be released to travel back home as they might be at risk of contracting the virus.

Nzimande said: 

In terms of the adjusted Level 4 lockdown that has now been put in place, our universities do not officially close, but all face-to-face teaching and examinations must halt for the next two-week period. Learning will shift exclusively to online learning for all students.

He added universities would, however, need to continue to manage residences according to the necessary health and safety protocols as outlined in the directives and in line with protocols developed by higher health.

READ | Adjusted Level 4: Postponed exams, no contact classes - universities deal with the third wave

"Under no circumstances should any mass social or other activities be permitted in residences or on campuses during this period and institutions are requested to strictly enforce restrictive measures.

"It has also been agreed that international and inter-provincial travel will be discouraged, and limited to essential services and needs."

Nzimande said all access to campuses would also be controlled and made available for essential services and other activities that could not be suspended.

He added the principle outlined in the sector's directions was that all universities would manage their own academic activities in line with the national directions and health protocols, with the support of higher health. 

All institutions were expected to ensure their Covid-19 task teams were functional and active to manage institutional responses to the pandemic and also to maintain effective communication and consultation with staff and students amid the third wave, Nzimande said. 

Hybrid teaching and learning at TVET colleges

Touching on Technical, Vocational and Education Training (TVET), he added colleges would initiate remote teaching and learning approaches as they did in 2020. 

He said until the colleges officially closed later in the week and after they reopen, post-Level 4 lockdown, they would have to maintain health and safety protocols at campuses. 

Nzimande added further details of the process and the amended reopening dates for colleges would be communicated in due course.

The higher education department was in the process of finalising negotiations with mobile network operators for zero-rated data for students and college staff.

He said colleges would also make alternative plans to ensure students received their learning material while the issue of data was being attended to.

ALSO READ | Universities must prioritise student success, staff and curriculum development - Nzimande

TVET college examinations will also be adjusted to ensure students were properly prepared and not disadvantaged.

"I must indicate that flexibility exists in our TVET examinations calendar to allow for any reasonable amendment. Semester 1 and NCV students, who are currently in recess, shall resume their classes on 12 July on a rotational basis.

"Semester 2 registrations are ongoing and phased-in classes are to begin on 1 August, subject to review. Staff attendance at colleges and regional offices should be at a maximum of 33% to allow for limited disruption," Nzimande added.

He said Community Education and Training (CET) colleges would be guided by the Department of Basic Education calendar because the majority of them used basic education infrastructure. 

The higher education department said higher health had trained and developed more than 49 000 campus-based frontline institutional staff and student volunteers. 

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