Minister of Higher Education Blade Ndzimande says the department remains committed to resuming the 2020 academic year, even though the country is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of students from universities, TVET, and private colleges have been affected by the outbreak which has claimed the lives of over 1000 people. Nzimande says the reopening dates will be adjusted accordingly as institutions could not open on time due to strict lockdown regulations.
Ndzimande also launched a tool to be used by students and staff daily for COVID-19 screening and testing prior to entering campuses. He says the resumption of academic activities which will be done in phases will be done in line with the guidelines of the National COVID-19 Command Council and as approved by parliament.
The invention of the screening and testing tool is a joint venture with Higher Health and can be downloaded from cellphones and via Whatsapp.
Nzimande says, “With high health checks, you can check yourself every day in the morning or anytime and press a button and that information will go to the database of the department of health… All students and staff, about 2 million of them, will be required to use it every day to access their own risk of health prior to entering campuses.”
Nzimande who earlier visited the Tshwane University of Technology’s Ga-rankuwa Campus to inspect the institutions readiness to resume lectures, says he’s satisfied with the progress made so far.
“The impression about TUT’s readiness is that they have reprioritized their funding to cover COVID-19 related matters and they have repurposed one of their engineering laboratories to produce sanitizers and disinfectants for the whole university and also supply surrounding mainly poor communities. This is indeed very impressive, TUT has also developed a plan for multi-model remote learning,” says Nzimande.
Nzimande says the department is finalizing the procurement of laptops and data for NSFAS qualifying students. He says he’s met with the leadership of the South African Union of Students to discuss some of the concerns raised by students.
“The issues that we discussed at the time, critical for further discussions included the student funding policy that provide for what we call the N+1 and N+2 years of funding students in other words if you get a NSFAS bursary you are expected to finish your diploma or certificate, or degree within a particular period,” Nzimande says.
Academic activities for 2020 have been put on early recess since March as the country put measures in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.