TUT ready for its first groups of students - Blade Nzimande
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The minister was on his first oversight visit to the university to monitor the readiness of tertiary institutions to reopen. He started at the university’s Ga-Rankuwa campus, where staff had been manufacturing 70% alcohol-based hand sanitisers to assist the first bunch of clinical students next Monday.
He said he was very impressed with the institution’s level of readiness. He said it was the largest contact university in the country, largest university of technology on the continent, and a South African university with the largest number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The minister said universities could reopen for one-third of the students in level 3 of the lockdown and prioritise the return of final-year students.
However, he learnt that the university had a rather large number of final-year students.
“I am impressed really. The institution has re-purposed a laboratory which normally does a lot of work in cosmetics, research and so on, sanitisers and disinfectants. It has produced here and the institution is producing it for itself.
“Of course the institution has challenges, which is why we started here, to say how do you deal with the coronavirus when you have over 64000 students. I’m very impressed by work that’s being done under the leadership of the vice-chancellor (Professor Lourens van Staden).
Van Staden said the academic calendar would have to go on in classrooms where physical distancing would be observed and every building’s entrance and door sanitised.
“This is not guessing; a majority of our students do not have access to data and connectivity, and they don’t have electricity. They are in remote areas right now - in crowded situations and prefer face-to-face education.”
He said even that though there was digital education at the university, 72% of the students who responded to a survey preferred face-to-face education, and that’s what they aimed to provide. This fuelled the university to work on strategies to maximise the safety and protection of its students.
It also established a Covid-19 task team to work on making its conceptual new normal a reality.
Van Staden said the university would begin the first semester on June 29 and the second semester on October 12. Final-year students will return on July 20, first-year students on August 24 and second-year students on September 14. Classes will start a couple of days after students return.