The safety of universities
Having been closed for months, universities are slowly allowing students back onto parts of their premises for face to face classes and consultations. The question lingering in everyone’s mind is: are the universities safe enough?
Many lecture rooms have been changed to accommodate the social distancing regulations. There have even been installations of glass pods to section and separate students in the lecture rooms. In the midst of that, there are universities who have encouraged students to be comfortable with online learning as much as possible.
Although South Africa hasn’t had much news on students or university staff being affected by Covid-19, there are a lot of people who have been afflicted. According to the most recent reports from the Department of Higher Education website, “the total number of positive Covid-19 cases reported by institutions is 1 552.” Affected are 577 students and 975 staff. The department has since advised strict precautions in all higher learning institutions.
Reports from Sky News say that over 40 universities have closed due to Covid-19, with a total of 3 540 people self isolating, some inside student residences.
In a recent article in University World News, a Stellenbosch professor, Nuraan Davids, states that in familiarising with the ‘new normal’, universities and students view remote learning positively. “To universities, online learning signals potential access to students based anywhere in the world.” She further states that students find online learning useful because it allows flexibility especially to those students juggling work and school.
Universities in Nigerian have also been given the go ahead to open up by the country’s National Universities Commission. The institutions are expected to adhere to the World Health Organisation (WHO) prescribed regulations of social distancing and keeping sanitised. The commission also stated that there will be on-the-spot inspections of residences, lecture rooms, healthcare facilities and cafeterias.
The Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, is expected to hold a press briefing on September 30 2020, regarding regulations relating to the COVID-19 Level 1 restrictions in higher learning institutions.