The Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande says only 33% of the student student population will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences under Level 3 of the country’s lockdown, which is expected to kick in from June 1.
Nzimande says the return will be on condition that the students can be safely accommodated and supported in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the Department
The Minister says his department is committed to saving the 2020 academic year while also saving lives.
He was briefing the media on measures implemented by the higher education department in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Nzimande says the Higher Education sector has adopted the theme “Save the Academic Year Save Lives.”
In the video below, higher education students voice their concerns amid the lockdown:
Nzimande says NSFAS is working with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) to get tax information in order to corroborate household incomes for all NSFAS applicants. This will include rental and investment income for all applicants.
The Minister says initial data shows that 125 000 new 2020 students come from informal settlements and working with SARS will assist towards outstanding appeals.
“Our partnership with the Department of Social Development (DSD) saw a dramatic improvement in approvals for social welfare beneficiaries and more than 240 000 new entrants were approved for funding. Taken together indeed NSFAS is truly providing for the most vulnerable and the poor members of our society by opening up gateways out of poverty,” the Minister said.
Detailed strategies for universities
Nzimande says public universities have developed detailed strategies for remote multimodal teaching and learning during Level 3 lockdown. He says all institutions are committed to ensuring that students complete the 2020 academic year.
Each public university has submitted a Teaching, Learning, Assessment and Campus Readiness Plans, which the higher education department is currently reviewing. This is so that funds can be reprioritised to support teaching and learning plans by June.
The funding that will be reprioritised will be approved as a special COVID-19 Responsiveness Grant (CRG).
The Minister says Higher Health is assisting with reviewing the state of campus readiness.
“Higher Health is assisting with the review of the campus readiness component of the plans, which will assist to ensure that adequate COVID-19 health and safety standards are put into place across the PSET system, and they will do a short presentation at this media briefing.”
Below is Nzimande’s full address:
Nzimande says a tentative academic calendar has already been drawn up for TVET colleges. Return dates are available for different faculties. The class commencement dates will also be dependent on different lockdown levels of regions the colleges are located in.
“Campuses located in districts that remain in lockdown level 4 will remain closed and students will be supported using multi-modal remote learning approaches. Each of these colleges will therefore develop a detailed remote learning support plan and share it with students as well as post it on the college website,” Nzimande said.
The minister says several colleges have already developed learning materials both for TV and radio broadcasts, which are available on the DHET website. These initiatives are expected to carry on post-lockdown.
Devices for NSFAS and Funza Lushaka university students
Nzimande says NSFAS and Funza Lushaka students will receive government-subsidised 10GB daytime data and 20GB nighttime data bundles from 1 June to the end of August. He says government can, unfortunately, not assist “middle students” and students from private institutions.
He says NSFAS and Funza Lushaka students must register their cellphone numbers in order to receive the data bundles.
Nzimande says the department has availed free content for TVET college students on the DHET website. Some universities, he says, have already started to supply students with laptops.
“A lot of work then had to be undertaken to quantify the exact number and location of these students who still need to be issued with devices. That work has now been completed and procurement will commence as soon as the approval of the Minister of Finance is received,” the Minister says.
In the video below, students react to Nzimande’s address:
Below is Minister Nzimande’s full statement: