We're reopening, but cautiously, says UKZN as Covid-19 infections continue to rise

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The University of KwaZulu-Natal.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal.
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  • The University of KwaZulu-Natal will reopen its doors to some students on 29 June.
  • Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimade recently announced that one-third of the students may return to campuses.
  • The university will be contacting students individually to inform them if they will be returning to campus.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) will be reopening its doors over the coming weeks, but says it will do so cautiously because of the steady rise in Covid-19 infections countrywide.

"[The] UKZN leadership has been carefully planning for the event. The logistics and planning for the return of the students and staff are complex and has to be undertaken both carefully and systematically, especially in light of the rapidly increasing confirmed daily cases of Covid-19 nationally over the last two weeks," university spokesperson Normah Zondo said.

The announcement comes after Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande announced the return of a maximum of one-third of the student population.

"We do not want to jeopardise the health and safety of our students and staff, and therefore a carefully mitigated approach that minimises risk was sought," she said.

How will UKZN roll out its plan?

According to Zondo, five categories of students would be allowed to return to campus:

- Final year undergraduate students in laboratory-based programmes, who are on track to complete their degrees in this academic year;

- Students in programmes which are clinically based (lists determined by the College of Health Sciences);

- Students with disabilities;

- The SRC executive;

- Student residence assistants, student life officers, and residence assistant officers;

- Undergraduate students who have not been able to access Moodle (an online learning platform) and who are not already included in lab or clinically-based programmes. Those to be included are determined by analysis of data on access to Moodle;

- Post-graduate students who require access to laboratory equipment. Each college has compiled lists;

- Honours and post-graduate diploma students whose work is laboratory based;

- Students appointed as laboratory demonstrators for the students in the programmes that will be eligible to return to campus.

'Stringent regulations'

The students would return to UKZN by Monday 29 June, Zondo said.

"Colleges will be contacting individual students during the course of the next week to inform them of their eligibility to return to campus. If the student has not been contacted, the student must not return to campus."

She said there would be "stringent regulations" for accessing campuses and residences, and "therefore students who are not in possession of a permit will be denied access".

"Students who are at high risk of infection due to health issues, including co-morbidities, are encouraged not to return to campus and to continue with online teaching and learning. There will be no contact teaching and learning (i.e. physical lectures), except in laboratories. We encourage all students who can study online to continue to do so and not return to campus."

Zondo said colleges would be staggering the return of students to campus.

"Students must take note of the dates stipulated to them for their return to campus. Due to health and safety measures, and ensuring compliance with regulations, students may not necessarily be accommodated in the residence that they were allocated to in pre-lockdown."

She said eligible students would be informed of their assigned residences.

Students returning to university-owned and leased residences will also be expected to self-isolate for a period of 14 days on returning to the residence and everyone returning to campus will have to apply for permits.

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