Photo: Flickr / GovernmentZA

Level 1: Universities permitted to welcome 100% of students to campuses

Universities can now function at full capacity, and the 2020 academic year will be completed at different times for different institutions.


Photo: Flickr / GovernmentZA

South Africa’s universities are now permitted to welcome their full compliment of eager students back to their campuses under Level 1, with the completion of the 2020 academic year remaining on course.

This was announced by Higher Education and Training, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande, who briefed the media on Wednesday 30 September during a COVID-19 update delivered by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC). 

Universities can welcome 100% of student body back to campus 

From Wednesday, all students are able to head to class, with a 50% occupancy of rooms  -up to a maximum of 250 persons indoors at a time – also permitted. The hosting of side gatherings up to 500 people at a time is also allowed.

He said that the Department of Health is best placed to advise which international students will be able to return, adding that over 50% of foreign students studying at South African universities come from the African continent. 

“International students returning to our country will need to meet the requirements of the COGTA regulations, which includes having a test not older than 72 hours showing that they are negative for the virus on arrival in South Africa,” he said. 

2020 academic year to conclude at varying times at each university

In terms of completing the 2020 academic year, Nzimande said that 10 universities aim to complete the academic year before the end of the 2020 calendar year, while four universities plan to end in January 2021, seven in February, and five in March.

“Different institutions will finish at different times – 10 will finish this year, and the rest will finish at different times between jan and march 2021,” he said. 

“This has a lot to do with the capacities in various institutions. There has unfortunately been a delay to get laptops and tablet devices to certain institutions that need them.” 

Screening systems in place

He said that he believes his department and universities are adequately prepared to ensure the safety of students, with screening systems already in place to ensure that the COVID-19 virus does not spread throughout campuses. 

“Higher Health has trained more than 4 000 volunteers who are placed at each campus. They are both students and staff. The latest development which I launched is our mobile app which will be dedicated to particular districts that are understaffed in order to be able to act as the frontline in screening and identifying people who may be in danger,” he said.

He said that those who feel uncomfortable with the prospect of returning to the classroom should only remain at home if they have the necessary provisions to ensure that they can continue learning remotely.  

“Those who feel they have adequate means for learning without coming to class [can remain at home]. Those who don’t, we encourage them to go back to campuses. The response is fairly positive although there are some who have not returned to class,” he said.