Universities can return to 100% attendance: Blade Nzimande
Higher education, science and innovation minister Blade Nzimande says universities can now welcome back 100% of their students.
This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced this month that the country was going to lockdown level 1.
Nzimande was addressing the media on Wednesday on his department's Covid-19 risk-adjusted strategy.
“After the president’s announcement that the country would move to level 1, I am pleased to say that we are now in a position to welcome back 100% of our university students, including all those international students who are now outside the borders of SA,” he said.
The minister said all universities were implementing their plans for all students and staff to return from Thursday.
International students will be subject to the same regulations applied to foreign visitors, which compels each individual to produce a negative Covid-19 test or face a 10-day quarantine at their own cost, he said.
He also warned that health and safety protocols — physical distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, sanitising and environmental cleaning — must be applied.
Nzimande said universities will also now be able to move to 50% occupancy of their rooms, up to a maximum of 250 people indoors at a time, with ventilation of rooms remaining critical.
“As a sector, we will also allow the hosting of side gatherings up to 500 people at a time.”
He said according to the latest reports, there were now a total of 1,979 cases of Covid-19 at institutions. These include 1,215 staff members and 764 students.
Nzimande said since the easing of lockdown regulations, the department had issued 245,652 students with permits to be on campus for teaching and learning.
He said on a daily basis, 70,815 students and staff members were screened entering university campuses in the two-week period between September 8 and 22.
Nzimande said they were now monitoring their systems to check the likelihood of institutions effectively completing the academic year while providing all students with a fair opportunity of success.
“We therefore colour red for institutions that are at a high risk for not completing the academic year effectively; orange for those who are at a medium risk; and green for those who are on track to complete.
“I’m pleased to say that my department has held one-on-one engagements with all those institutions who were at high or medium risk of completion and has been providing ongoing support.”
He said since September 17, no institution was considered high-risk.
“It is anticipated that as students return to campus with the move to level 1, the teaching and learning programme will advance more rapidly, with catch-up programmes for students who have not been able to engage satisfactorily to be implemented,” he said.
“In terms of completion of the 2020 academic year, 10 universities aim to complete the academic year before the end of the 2020 calendar year, four universities plan to end in January 2021, seven universities plan to complete in February 2021, and five universities plan to complete in March 2021.”
Minister Blade Nzimande gave an update on the state of higher education in relation to lockdown regulations on September 30 2020, after the president's announcement that the country had moved to alert level 1. The briefing outlined guidelines for international students returning to SA to continue their studies and plans for the 2021 academic year.