Universities are now permitted to allow 66% of the student contingent back on campus.
The announcement was made by Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Blade Nzimande on Wednesday during a briefing held in Pretoria.
He announced the department’s strategy for Level 2 lockdown, including measures for post-school education.
Nzimande stressed that the return of the students would be conducted along specific Covid-19 management procedures to keep staff and students safe, while campuses are reopened.
“We must remain vigilant about the necessary physical distancing, safety and cleaning protocols to ensure that we continue to save lives while we work towards saving the academic year,” he said.
He said all public institutions are reporting with the department through a bi-monthly monitoring process.
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He added that all universities had made provision for remote, multimodal teaching and learning. The managed return of the students will comply with the terms published in the government gazette.
The next phasing in process of students is anticipated on September 1. Each institution will allow students in according to their own programme, strategies and plans.
Under Level 2, the following students will be able to return:
- First-year students in all undergraduate programmes
- Students in years of study, which require access to technical and laboratory equipment in order to complete the year
- Students who were to have returned during Level 3 but were unable to because of limited space
- Students in years of study, which require practical placements and hands-on/work-based learning to complete the year
International students will be unable to return until international travel is resumed during Level 1. When international travel is allowed, priority might apply to senior medical students and registrars.
The remaining students will continue with remote multimodal learning until they can return to campus.
Nzimande confirmed that he was aware that some institutions had faced difficulty in implementing their plans.
“However, we have been doing everything possible to ensure that we support institutions to respond in the best possible way to the many challenges that have arisen during the pandemic.
“This has included the re-prioritisation of funds to support the Covid-19 response at our public universities,” he said.
“As it stands, we are targeting all institutions to complete the 2020 academic year by the end of February 2021, with starting dates for the new 2021 academic year ranging from March 15 to April 15, 2021.
“All efforts will be made to ensure that outlier institutions get up to speed to meet this requirement,” added Nzimande.
During a virtual meeting on Wednesday, Cabinet had welcomed the minister’s announcement.