Minister of higher education, science and innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, on Wednesday outlined his department’s plans on how the post school education and training institutions should operate to comply with the adjusted alert level 4 lockdown measures.
Nzimande’s address was a response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement last week Sunday that different ministers should provide guidelines on how their specific sectors should implement safety measures to disrupt the rising infections of the Delta variant.
Nzimande said the directions he has outlined should be read with the relevant COGTA regulations. In his address, Ramaphosa said, among others, that all gatherings or meetings are prohibited, schools and tertiary institutions will be closed for at least two weeks, and contact classes will be prohibited.
Nzimande said soon after the announcement he has requested his deputy minister, Bhuti Manamela to urgently convene our Ministerial Task COVID-19 Post-School Education and Training (PSET) Task Team to discuss plans on how they can manage and implement restrictions and measures. The task team, made up of key stakeholders including Usaf, SAPCO, Labour Unions, SATVETSA and SAUS, came up with valuable inputs which formed the basis for the restriction measures that the PSET can apply during the current phase of the national lockdown.
Protocols at universities
In terms of the preventative measures, universities will have to follow all directions and procedures to bring their academic activities in line with all the prescribed national health protocols. Institutions are expected to ensure their COVID-19 Task Teams are functional and active and maintain effective communication and consultation with staff and students. The directions also provide guidance on the following matters:
- institutional plans
- campus health and safety
- student accommodation and residences
- psychosocial assistance for staff and students
- academic classes and examinations
- graduations ceremonies and events
- international students and international travel and vaccination.
Face-to-face teaching halted
Nzimande said in terms of the new alert level 4, universities will not officially close but face-to-face tuition and examinations are prohibited for a period of two-weeks. Learning will be moved to online platforms for all students, said Nzimande, adding that residences will remain open, “as it is also not safe for students to travel back home at this time and it is necessary for students to retain access to campus and residence-based wifi”.
No mass social or other activities will be permitted in residences or on campuses and restrictive measures will be strictly enforced. International and
inter-provincial travel will be discouraged and access to campuses for essential services and vital activities will be strictly controlled.
Technical, Vocational and Education Training Institutions (TVETs)
As with the universities, all TVET institutions should ensure strict adherence to all existing safety protocols. “This includes, but is not limited, to sanitization, social distancing, wearing of masks, contact tracing and phased-in contact classes as guided by the Ministerial Advisory Committee and other relevant parties,” said Nzimande.
Colleges will also deploy hybrid (remote) teaching and learning approaches, said Nzimande. He said further details of this and amended opening dates for the colleges will be communicated in detail in due course.
The minister said his department in partnership with SACPO is finalising negotiations with the relevant mobile network operators (MNOs) for the zero-rated data for both students and staff. He said while negotiations are proceeding, alternative plans will be made to ensure that students receive their learning content.
Adjusting examinations calendar
To ensure students are not disadvantaged and are adequately prepared for examinations and assessments, TVET college examinations calendar will be adjusted, said minister Nzimande. Semester 1 and NCV students who are currently in recess shall resume their classes on 12 July on a rotational basis, he added.
“Semester 2 registrations are on-going and phased-in classes will begin on 01 August 2021 subject to review. Staff attendance at colleges and regional offices should be at a maximum of 33% to allow for limited disruption,” said Nzimande. Community colleges will be guided by the department of basic education calendar as majority of them use the basic education infrastructure.
Nzimande said skills development under the banner of the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETA) is one of the areas that will be negatively impacted by the stringent measures associated with the adjusted alert level 4. To mitigate the negative effects brought about by the pandemic “skills levy holiday on employers and the accelerated increase on the apprenticeship grant will apply in the immediate affected period”, said Nzimande.
He said the relevant guidelines, regulations and disaster acts will be invoked to assist skills development providers so that they can manage service delivery under the lockdown regulations. “Due to the severity and rapid spread of the current and dominant Delta strain, all skills development providers are urged also to consider reducing physical trainer or assessor or candidate interactions within training or testing spaces,” said Nzimande.