Final year students to return to varsity under level 3, free data

Final year students and those graduating in 2020 may return to campus under level 3 lockdown.

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, said under level 3 which is still to be announced, a maximum of 33% of the students will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences.

Dzimande said on condition that the tertiary institutions are in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the department.

Another group of student free to return to university once the country is downgraded from level 4 include the final year and postgraduate students who require access to laboratories, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to the residence and private accommodation.

“Students in all years of study that require clinical training in their programmes provided that the clinical training platforms have sufficient space and can accommodate them while adhering to the safety protocols,” he explained.

He said a two to three weeks period would be given after the level 3 announcement depending on the readiness and capacity of each institution.

“Should level 3 be announced to begin on 15 June, then students would be recalled to start two to three weeks thereafter. In other words, a period of two to three weeks will be given to allow students to travel back to their campuses and institutions to ensure that the campuses are effectively prepared for the return.”

The Minister said he would publish guidelines in terms of the Disaster Management Act to permit such travel that will be issued by institutions.

“It is critical that we adhere to these criteria to ensure that campuses are ready for students to safely return, and the effective health screening, cleaning protocols are in place to keep everyone safe.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa is currently in consultations with different stakeholders, as the country gets ready to move from level 4 to level 3 of the national lockdown.

Meanwhile, Nzimande said all the other students would be supported through remote multimodal teaching, learning and assessment until they can return to campus.

“It is recognised that some institutions may identify other groups of students in line with their particular contexts. However, any deviation from these criteria must be approved by my department and must fall within a maximum of 33% of the student population.”

He acknowledged COVID-19 has disrupted the 2020 academic year but said they were determined to salvage what is left of it while saving lives.

“I would like to reiterate that our sector’s response to COVID-19 is guided by measures announced by the National Command Council (NCC) and approved by Cabinet,” he added.