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Blade gives insights into how Covid-19 has impacted tertiary institutions

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Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande says 2020 academic year will impact the 2021 academic year

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande. File picture: Siyabulela Duda / GCIS

HIGHER Education Minister Blade Nzimande says some of the country’s community education and training (CET) colleges have reported coronavirus cases, with the hardest-hit provinces being Gauteng, Free State, North West and the Western Cape. 

Nzimande said CETs had been given the go-ahead to resume learning on June 23 and 133 000 students were expected back on campus. He said reports have shown that there has been some reluctance to return to campus by some students for fear of contracting the coronavirus. 

CETs provide for a variety of learning options such as ABET, senior certificate courses and general education and training. 

He said the sector would be greatly affected as over 300 centres have closed as hosting schools have yet to comply with Covid-19 management regulations.

“Given the challenges confronting most of the hosting schools, the CET colleges cannot – at the moment – cope with the return of the full complement of students who were registered at the point of the declaration of lockdown.

“It is our considered view that for the 2020 academic year serious considerations must be made that the return of students be limited to General Education and Training Certificate (GETC) ABET qualification, Senior Certificate, Occupational programmes and Adult Education and Training sub-level 3 students. 

“This will enable Community Learning Centres to comply with regulations especially the issue of social distancing and provision of adequate PPEs for staff and students,” the minister said. 

On universities, Nzimande said that 20 of the country’s universities had begun welcoming back students. 

Only 33% of students were permitted to return to campus under Level 3. These students were those who were in the final year of study and in need of access to technical equipment to complete their studies. 

Nzimande urged those students who did not require technical support to study at home as their unnecessary return could harm the effort of reducing the spread of the coronavirus. 

He said efforts were under way in finalising the tender to procure gadgets for students who need the devices for remote learning. The process would be finalised by August 15. 

The minister said the zero-rating of academic websites was of great assistance to students, but he raised concerns about reports of students using data provided by universities to download movies and other non-academic information. 

The 2020 academic year will impact the 2021 academic year, Nzimande warned. 

He said at the moment there were no talks between his department and the Basic Education Department to cancel the academic year.