OUT of 26 universities in South Africa, 19 were at low risk and seven at medium risk when the report was compiled in September, the Department’s deputy director-general for higher education, Diane Parker, told parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education, science and technology during a briefing on the 2020 academic year in the Post School Education and Training System.
The higher education, science and technology minister Dr Blade Nzimande was also present at the briefing.
“Universities that had already developed online teaching and learning capacity were able to transition to an online modality more rapidly. Universities have extended teaching and learning time to more effectively support students who could not be fully engaged during the lockdown,” Parker told the portfolio committee on higher education.
Parker said 68% of university students already have access to devices.
“Some universities have indicated that devices are available, but students are not taking them up. The universities where device availability is low at present are participating in the NSFAS-led process,” she said.
She also said around 94% of students were being provided with mobile data.
The 10 universities that are expected to complete the academic year in 2020 include the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, the University of Cape Town, the University of the Free State and the University of Johannesburg.
The Durban University of Technology, North West University, Rhodes University and the University of Mpumalanga are some that are planning to end the second semester in January 2021.
Universities planning for a February completion include, among others, the Central University of Technology, Mangosuthu University of Technology in Durban, Nelson Mandela University and University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Nzimande said that he is unhappy when it comes to the procurement of laptops for students, now run by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
The Department is now questioning whether the process of procuring laptops for students is still needed.
“I want to make this clear. The laptop process was driven by NSFAS which means the accounting officer and the accounting authority for NSFAS, which is Dr Carolissen, is the one who was responsible for the entire process,” said Nzimande.
“I tried single-sourcing and failed. I am open about that. I was concerned that these laptops must come sooner rather than later.”
A fortnight ago, Nzimande released the latest protocols from Higher Health for the 2020/21 examination period in the Post-Schooling Education and Training (PSET) sector.
The protocols are set to guide 26 universities, 50 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and other post-schooling institutions on how to conduct invigilated examinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Protocol on Invigilation of Tests and Examinations during COVID-19 within PSET institutions was developed by the PSET health and wellness agency, Higher Health, which has been assisting institutions in managing COVID-19 since the outbreak,” said Nzimande.
(COMPILED BY INSIDE EDUCATION STAFF)