Under the theme of “Save The Academic Year Save Lives”, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation has outlined a return to academics for those attending universities, colleges and TVET colleges.

Universities under the current level of lockdown have implemented remote multi modal teaching and learning. However, Minister Blade Nzimande said that each institution’s plan is unique as there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

“Each institution has committed to ensuring that all students are given a fair opportunity to complete the academic year 2020,” he said.

“We are working closely with all universities to ensure the implementation of this commitment. University Teaching, Learning, Assessment and Campus Readiness Plans have been submitted to the Department along with a detailed costing of the additional funding required to implement them.”

Many institutions webpages have been zero rated, to allow those without data to access their resources.  In addition, the department plan to make “Educational Data Bundles” available to all NSFAS students in universities and TVET Colleges, that they can use to pay for additional contents that is not covered through the zero rating.

“We have successfully negotiated with all mobile network operators very favourable rates for our 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 end of August, as subsidised by government,” said Nzimande.

Students without any access to online learning will be delivered paper based teaching and learning materials. This has already been undertaken by some institutions and will be continued.

Preparing to return

In addition to the multi-modal online learning approach, the Minister outlined how return to higher education will be phased in relation to the national alert levels.

Under Level 4, phasing in of final year students in programmes requiring clinical training, starting with medicine. The next is the phasing in of all other programmes such as Nursing, Dental, Veterinary Sciences and so on. Medical students began on May 11 while the rest will begin from June 1.

Under Level 3, a maximum of 33% of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses,  delivery sites and residences on condition that they can be safely accommodated and supported in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the Department.

Those included to return first are:

– those who returned under Level 4

– those in their final year who will graduate in 2020

– final year students who need access to laboratories, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to residence and private accommodation

– those in any year who require clinical training

– post graduate students who require laboratory equipment and other technical equipment to undertake their studies

Students who will have difficulty learning in their home environment will also be allowed to return, depending on the institution’s decision. Those returning will be given two to three weeks to return to their institution from the commencement of Level 3.  They will be given permits stating they may do so.

Under Level 2, a maximum of 66% of the student population will return to campus for teaching, learning and assessment.

Those included are:

– All groups that have already returned

– Students in all years of study who require laboratory and technical equipment to complete the academic year

– Students in all years of study who require practical placements/ experiential learning/ work place-based learning to complete the academic year (provided the work places and platforms are open and prepared)

– First year students in all undergraduate programmes

The same travel rules and timelines under Level 3 will be given to those returning under Level 2.

Under Level 1, 100% of the student population should return to campus. As the institution’s population will be significant, the strictest enforcement of physical distancing and health protocols is expected.

Watch the full statement here.

Image: Twitter/Blade Nzimande

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