DURBAN – Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande said a maximum of 33% of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses, as the country is expected to shift to Level 3 of the national lockdown on 1 June.
Nzimande who was speaking on plans for higher education in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, said students who are on a path to graduating in 2020 may return. Final year students who require access to laboratories, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to residence and private accommodation should return.
“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,” said Nzimande.
The Minister said while some institutions may identify other groups of students in line with their particular contexts. Any deviation from this criteria must be approved by the department and must fall within the maximum of 33% of the student population.
“Level 2 will see 66% population return. Only under level 1 will there be a 100% return. But all safety protocols must be in place first.When a district moves to Level 2 of the strategy, then the reintegration of the next group of students to return to contact tuition on campuses located in that district will take place according to the following criteria,” he said.
While Nzimande conceded that the pandemic has disrupted the 2020 academic year, he said they are committed towards saving the academic year whilst saving lives.
“Each institution has committed to ensuring that all students are given a fair opportunity to complete the academic year 2020. We are working closely with all universities to ensure the implementation of this commitment,”he said.
The minister said tertiary students funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will receive free data for the next three months and laptops to help them with online education during the lockdown. But students who fall within the so-called “missing middle” category, as well as students in private institutions, don’t qualify to receive free data.
“The department has successfully negotiated with all mobile network operators a favourable rates for NSFAS students, including the Funza Lushaka students, who will receive 10GB daytime and 20GB night-time data for three months, starting from 1 June till the end of August, as subsidised by the government.”
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