The Universities in South Africa have already been briefed about COVID 19 restrictions that are supposedly to last for a period of not less than a year. All eyes at this point in time are focused on what the minister for higher education in the country has to say about the ongoing situation for both students as well as the academicians.
And it turns out that Blade Nzimande, the Higher Education minister has already published a new national level framework that aims to prepare the universities in South Africa for the COVID 19 restrictions related to the 2021 academic year.
In a statement offered to the national media, here’s what the 62-year-old Pietermaritzburg-born minister had to offer, “It is now clear that the 2021 academic year will start under Covid-19 restrictions and that the pandemic will remain with us for some time and will pass though different intensity waves until the vaccination programme has been fully implemented.”
That being said, it doesn’t occur as if the country famously described as the Rainbow Nation will be breathing easy for as long as it succeeds in getting its act together against the ghastly COVID 19 pandemic. And that the Universities in South Africa must exercise caution is of utmost importance.
The minister is also of the view that the Coronavirus situation is due to affect daily lives and not just that, but workplaces for quite some time to come. Although what needs to be watched is how the lockdown levels change basis the trajectory of the pandemic and the level of infection.
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In addition to the above statement, he also stressed about the need to return back to a situation of normality and would further add, “Eventually it will be necessary to return to normal teaching and learning and work. However, this must be done based on the understanding that the pandemic will be unpredictable; that further spikes of infection may follow; and that geographical differentiation may have to be considered as some areas may be declared hotspots.”
In lines with the above, he stressed on the importance of having all living and teaching spaces operating in a manner where it is possible to make room for mitigation of health and safety risks. The country, therefore, needs to operate in a manner where one can minimize health and safety risks across all institutions, including working spaces and universities in South Africa.
It’s therefore no random call but a well-thought through statement that the pandemic is bound to impact the foreseeable future of South Africa.
All higher educational institutions have been advised to develop plans for the opening of the new academic year 2021 and efforts must be made to further integrate students and staffs across campuses and residences.
That being said, a report recently published in the South African trade journal Business Tech (co.za) shared the following in lines with this developing story:
The department said that the access of staff and students to campus, contact tuition and to residences must be managed within the parameters of the applicable national alert level regulations and the relevant regulations, as published by the minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
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To conclude, there’s a newfound reason to ensure that all relevant COVID 19 protocols such as physical distancing and other hygiene-related measures are duly followed and the universities in South Africa must adhere to these guidelines.