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Nzimande prepares universities for 2021 with a new Covid-19 framework

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Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande has published a revised Covid-19 framework to help universities prepare for the 2021 academic year.

Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande
Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande has published a revised Covid-19 framework to help universities prepare for the 2021 academic year. Picture: GCIS

According to the framework signed on March 29, the minister said it was clear that the 2021 academic year would start under Covid-19 restrictions and that the pandemic would remain for some time and would pass through different intensity waves until the vaccination programme had been fully implemented.

“Because of unique circumstances at each institution (locational and spatial arrangements, local lockdown restrictions, capacity issues, actual and variable numbers of students, etc), a one-size-fits-all approach is not feasible. Therefore each institution must work out its own management plan for the 2021 academic year based on its context within the adjusted national lockdown rules framework, which may be adjusted from time to time,” the revised framework stipulated.

Nzimande requested that all institutions develop plans for the opening of the 2021 academic year and the managed integration of staff and students to campuses and residences.

“Each institution must develop and implement a teaching and learning plan to ensure that physical distancing and other health protocols are observed at all times. This implies implementing blended learning methodologies, flipped classrooms, carousel and block contact teaching, and so on. The teaching and learning plan should ensure that all students are afforded the opportunity to participate meaningfully in teaching and learning,” the gazette read.

Nzimande ordered that all students residing in Higher Education Institution (HEI) residences and accommodation sign an agreement that they commit to safe behaviour and will not participate in off-campus activities that are risky during the time that the regulations are still in force.

There should be a complete ban on all social gatherings at all institutions when alert levels 5, 4 and 3 have been declared, either nationally or in specified hotspots. This may be relaxed under levels 2 and 1 lockdown regulations and aligned with the risk alert level applicable at the time.

Physical graduation ceremonies should only be held aligned with the disaster regulations applicable at the time, subject to health and safety protocols and limited numbers. Institutions should also continue to utilise alternative graduation methods, including online graduations and delivery of certificates, particularly at levels 3, 4 and 5 of the national lockdown.

He said for school events and parties consideration may be given to specific events taking place during levels 2 and 1 of the lockdown.

“Conferences, workshops and sports events must be aligned with the risk alert level applicable at the time,” Nzimande stated.