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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Parliament’s Proposed Plan To Rescue The 2020 Academic Year For SA Universities

Nyakallo Tefu

The portfolio committee on higher education has proposed that there should be no return to face-to-face campus activity until September when the peak of the coronavirus virus is over.

The parliamentary committee also proposed a return to learning and teaching through online and remote methodologies at all universities as from May 4.

This comes a few days after top universities in South Africa resumed classes using remote online learning and teaching.

On Tuesday, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Higher Education also held a virtual meeting to assess the impact of the lockdown on the higher education sector.

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande also attended the meeting and presented government’s plans from the department, universities and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges on how to rescue the 2020 academic year.

Parliament’s proposals are contained in a PowerPoint presentation entitled, Plans For Academic Year 2020 And Response To COVID-19 Pandemic.

In the presentation, the parliamentary committee on higher education highlights that every institution has pledged to complete the financial year, even if it goes into the year 2021.

The committee also said that no student would be left behind, more especially those that can’t access online teaching and learning.

According to the proposed plan, before re-opening of universities, 360 degree screening and testing of students or staff returning to campuses should be conducted.

It further states that all campus quarantine facilities should be made available at each and every institution.

The plan also proposed a mental health support and other forms of support necessary for staff and students throughout the academic.

It said there will be no changes to NSFAS funding for qualifying students at this stage.

“Given the likely extension of the academic year, as mentioned, modelling is being done to determine the costs of the different scenarios,” according to the plan.

“According to the latest report received by the Minister from NSFAS, a total number of 5,516 student (first-time entering) appeals have been approved, and a further 1,404 student appeals were unsuccessful. A total number of 24,571 continuing students’ appeals have been received from institutions, of which 14,117 have been approved. NSFAS has established a virtual contact centre using web platforms and social media and has been able to successfully continue engaging with students.”

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