Student survey COVID-19

Image via: Adobe Stock

Student survey: 13 000 youth share their COVID-19 challenges

Blade Nzimande has revealed startling findings following a survey on student difficulties during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Student survey COVID-19

Image via: Adobe Stock

More than 13 000 youth from higher education institutions around South Africa added their voice to a student survey that examined the challenges they faced while under lockdown when COVID-19 hit South African shores.

Blade Nzimande, the Higher Education Minister, officially released the findings of the study titled:  The impact of COVID-19 on students in the post-school education and training sector on Monday – a few days before the country marks Youth Day on 16 June.

The study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council and Higher Health surveyed students on their food security during the lockdown; their access to accommodation; their ability to undertake remote learning and the impact of their mental health during the various stages of lockdown.


Findings reveal that 40% residence or out-of-town students had to return home when a hard lockdown was announced in late March 2020, while 1% had no place to stay and 37% stayed with their parents while studying.

Food security was an area of concern for researchers who discovered that 28% of students couldn’t afford to buy food and 79% depended on their families for food. A total of 10% relied on food donations to feed themselves; 14% sometimes went hungry, 12% went the entire day without food and 36% ate less preferred foods during this time.

Remote learning was possible for students in private higher education institutions with 90% saying they were able to access virtual academic programmes. A total of 35% of students in the public education sector indicated they could not access remote learning; 15% of whom were from TVET colleges.

In terms of psychological distress, 37% from the 18–19-year age group; 28% between the 25-29 year age group and 29% of those aged 30-35 experienced psychological problems.


Reacting to research findings Nzimande said: “From the results we know that 53% thought they were at low risk of contracting COVID-19 and 15% perceived themselves as high risk. This reinforces that it is important for students to understand that they are in fact carriers of the virus and whilst they may be asymptomatic, they are at risk of transmitting to their parents and elderly grandparents.”

Blade Nzimande

Nzimande said the findings suggests students must be consistently reminded of to practice the basic prevention methods for COVID-19.

He empathised with students for the struggles they experienced particularly with food insecurity and accessing remote learning programme due to limited access to data. He applauded higher education institutions for the steps they took to ensure online mechanisms were in place to facilitate remote learning for its students.

He also commended students who volunteered to avail themselves to carry out programmes to assist in the fight against COVID-19. Nzimande praised the 12 000 youth volunteers who were trained by Higher Health to assist where needed over the past year.