A 'powerful fourth wave' of Covid-19 could derail plans for the 2022 academic year, says Higher Health CEO

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"It is clear that the choices we make now and during the holiday period will have a major impact on the coming academic year," says Prof. Ramneek Ahluwalia.
"It is clear that the choices we make now and during the holiday period will have a major impact on the coming academic year," says Prof. Ramneek Ahluwalia.

The fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa is in full swing and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Higher Health says that this could undermine the full opening of university and college campuses across the country early in 2022.

"It is clear that the choices we make now and during the holiday period will have a major impact on the coming academic year," says Prof. Ramneek Ahluwalia.

Though the effects of the fourth wave are expected to be less severe than the second and third in terms of serious illness and number of deaths, this is not necessarily the case in terms of the number of infections. 

The threat posed by the fourth wave still gives it considerable power to disrupt future educational activities, according to Prof. Ahluwalia.

Also read: Should schools close as the fourth wave begins? Activists, parents and teachers comment

'Our institutions were designed for contact learning'

For this reason, many learning institutions are gearing up to save contact learning by creating safer campus environments.

"We have all come to realise there is simply no substitute for face-to-face teaching and hands-on learning, especially when it comes to developing vocational skills and the workplace competencies of graduates," says Prof. Ahluwalia. 

"Our institutions were designed for contact teaching and, ideally, we would like to see a blend of 70% contact teaching and 30% online – instead of the reverse. But a powerful fourth wave of Covid-19 could derail our plans for the 2022 academic year."

"If we want to get our country back to normal, we all need to take the fourth Covid-19 wave seriously and gear up to resist it. If we fail to protect learning at school and post-school levels we will pay a heavy price – not just next year but for many years to come as the skills gaps take their toll on our economy and social services," says Prof Ahluwalia.

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