Blade Nzimande warns students against flooding campuses during level 3
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Johannesburg - Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande has warned of a high risk of coronavirus infection in tertiary institutions if students who do not fall into categories that qualify to return to campuses do so anyway.
Addressing a virtual press briefing on Saturday, Nzimande said only 33 percent of students would be allowed to return to campuses, two to three weeks after President Cyril Ramaphosa moved the country from Level 4 down to Level 3 of the lockdown.
He said such students would include clinical studies students, who already returned on May 11, all final year students who qualify to graduate next year and final year students who require access to laboratories and technical equipment.
“I want parents at home to hear that this is not a free for all return to campuses because if we can do that we would be causing a danger of the death of students, staff and lecturers.
“I am saying this because I am aware that there are students that are saying ‘today we want Nzimande to say only one thing that we all go back’, we are not going to work like that because we are dealing with people's lives,” he said.
Nzimande said the department was concerned about the safety of the students “as there is nothing as sad as parents who send a child to a college or university, and instead of that child coming back with an academic gown and certificate, he comes back in a coffin.”
Nzimande said the government had responsibility to save people's lives while providing education.
He also said only under Level 1 would 100% of students be allowed back into campuses.
Nzimande said all students would resume their academic activities on June 1 remotely through digital technology.
He said the students would be given three weeks to return to campuses in order to be allowed a space to travel and for the universities to be cleaned and sanitised.
Under Level 2, the number of students who would be allowed back to campuses would increase to 60%.
Then those who would remain off campus would rely on laptops that have been provided to them by universities, mostly through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
Nzimande commended network providers for zero rating data that would be provided to students, including those that are from TVET, agricultural, and nursing colleges, for academic purposes.
“This means that access to websites from all of our institutions is essentially free, you are now going to use data without paying for these zero rated sites,” he said.
The minister also said the provision of technology gadgets to students during the Covid-19 period would transform South African education to a modern era in terms of teaching materials.
“This bold step would be expended to TVET colleges to whom access to technology would improve their skills to be fit for the modern economy,” he said.
He also pleaded with Samaritan businessmen to buy laptops for needy students.
“That is the kind of social solidarity that we need from those who are rich,” said Nzimande.
He said various universities and colleges had already developed their individual detailed plans “as we cannot follow a one-size-fit-all approach”.
“We have encouraged our institutions to continue communicating with their students,” he said.