New lockdown rules for students and universities – level 4 versus level 3

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has announced that more students will be allowed to return to university campuses and residences under alert level 3.

Nzimande said his department has been “working hard during this month of May towards saving the academic year whilst saving lives”.

He said all public universities have developed strategies for remote multi-modal teaching and learning during the period of the current lockdown to be implemented from 1 June.

“Each institution has committed to ensuring that all students are given a fair opportunity to complete the academic year 2020,” he said.

To address the cost of connectivity, which remains a huge barrier for students who want to use the digital learning, a deal with mobile operators has been struck.

NSFAS students will receive 10GB daytime and 20GB night-time data for three months, starting from 1 June till end of August, which is subsidised by the government.

“In weeks to come, we will give detailed information on how to access these offers,” said Nzimande.

He acknowledged that students who fall within the so-called “missing middle” category, as well as students in private institutions, also need support in accessing data for their online learning.

The government is, however, not in a position to subsidize them.

“We appeal to MNOs to work with institutions to also offer affordable packages to such students,” he said.

Level 4 versus Level 3

Under level 4 of the lockdown, the controlled return of final year students in programmes requiring clinical training were allowed.

This started with medicine (MBChB) and will be followed in a phased approach of other programmes, such as nursing, dental, and veterinary sciences.

Medical students have been returning to clinical training platforms from 11 May, and final year students in other programmes requiring clinical training will start returning from 1 June 2020.

All other students are supported through remote multimodal teaching, learning and assessment until they can return to campus.

Under level 3 more students will be able to return to university campuses, but under very strict conditions.

A maximum of 33% of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences on condition that they can be safely accommodated and supported. This will include the following cohorts:

  • All groups that have already returned during alert level 4.
  • Students in the final year of their programmes, who are on a path to graduating in 2020 may return.
  • Final year students who require access to laboratories, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to residence and private accommodation should return.
  • Students in all years of study that require clinical training in their programmes.
  • Post Graduate students who require laboratory equipment and other technical equipment to undertake their studies.

In addition to the above, institutions may also consider selected return of other categories of students to residences who may face extreme difficulties in their home learning environments.

“When a district moves to Level 3 of the strategy, then the reintegration of the next group of students to return to campuses located in that district will take place,” said Nzimande.

Students will be given two to three weeks to return to campus. For example, if level 3 begins on 1 June 2020, then institutions will recall students to start their contact tuition two to three weeks after the announcement.

Under level 2, a maximum of 66% of the student population will return to campus for teaching, learning and assessment in line with the following criteria:

  • All groups that have already returned.
  • Students in all years of study who require laboratory and technical equipment to complete the academic year.
  • Students in all years of study who require practical placements/ experiential learning/ work place-based learning to complete the academic year.
  • First year students in all undergraduate programmes.

Under level 1, it is expected that 100% of the student population should return to campus.

Under level 2 and level 1 students must again be given two to three weeks to return to campus to start their tuition.

Now read: Metros could stay at level 4 while rest of South Africa moves to level 3 lockdown

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New lockdown rules for students and universities – level 4 versus level 3