The 76 TVET students, who spent 14 days under quarantine in Gauteng after returning from China in March, say they are excited to be finally going home to be reunited with their families. They have all tested negative for COVID-19.

The students from seven provinces across the country returned from China on March 20, where they had been on a year-long internship.

On Saturday, they were given a send-off by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.

26-year-old Information and Technology student Tracy Nkosi from Springs, in Gauteng, remembers how emotional and stressful the first few weeks of the 51-days they had to spend under lockdown at a technical college in China were.

“You see the next person crying, ok guys I really want to go home because we don’t know what’s happening. No one is saying anything besides the Chinese government saying to us, guys you are safe you need to adhere to washing your hands, disinfecting your rooms, nje be clean at all times. People were suffering from depression, anxiety,” Nkosi says.

Renier Roux, another student from KwaZulu-Natal, says he was very scared.

“Because if you had the virus you will stay that side and not come home. That’s why we use that as our reason not to get the virus, and look after ourselves following rules.”

In the video below, SABC’s Hasina Gori elaborates on this:

The students say they managed to pull through, through motivation and support from the Chinese authorities and other students.

Nkosi says when they eventually landed in South Africa and were told they will not be going home, she couldn’t take it anymore.

“It was a bit frustrating having to come from China, being in South Africa thinking you going home but nothing happens. I was like ok, ok, ok, I am still going to another quarantine. But I told myself, ‘you’ve been strong for like 12 months. 14 days is like nothing.”

Nkosi and her fellow students will now be able to spent time with their families.

Addressing the students ahead of their release from quarantine, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande relayed a message from the President.

The President has said to me I must say to you that he is very happy that you have been very disciplined, allowed to be quarantined here, but mostly, that you all been declared negative. The second message is you must be reminded that we are under lockdown in South African now. From you, we expect you to be cadres and foot soldiers in urging other South African starting with your families to respect the lockdown.”

In the video below, Minister Nzimande addresses the students: