The Minister gave updates on where the Higher Education now stands as we moved into Level 2. Over 1000 individuals were said to be affected by Covid-19 in the sector as he also spoke on deaths at Universities and TVET Colleges.
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80 lives were lost in the Public Higher Education sector due to Covid-19. Of these deaths, 35 were University staff members, 9 were University students and 36 were staff and students from the TVET College sector.
Minister Nzimande said in his media briefing that a report from 6 August showed that 1552 people tested positive for the coronavirus in Higher Education. 975 were staff members while 577 were students.
There are 2040 staff and students who are quarantined due to suspecting that they have the virus or they have been in contact with someone who had Covid. 2076 individuals in the sector also chose to self isolate.
He also said that over 29 000 staff and students were being screened daily at campuses.
There are 115 555 students who were issued with permits to come on to campuses. This makes up 20% of the student population. However, some made the decision to continue remote learning, said Nzimande.
A total of 33 985 students are currently living in University owned residences as at 6 August which translates to 28% of the residence capacity. A further 27 177 students are living in University leased and managed accommodation. 12 473 students are in University accredited accommodation while 9 899 students are now living in private accommodation vetted by the Universities.
It was also said that some institutions will end their academic year this year while others might only end in April. However, Nzimande says “that gap is too big”. It is obvious that better resourced institutions will finish earlier which also means that they will take the best off students and leave the rest to other institutions.
The Department is of the opinion that it must be a gap of a month and Vice-Chancellors have agreed and said that Universities never open at the same time, even under normal circumstances. They are therefore aiming for all Universities to have finished their academic year by February 2020.
Those institution who are at risk of ending in April will work closely with the Department as they want to start the academic year around that time. All stakeholders agreed that there shouldn't be major differences when it comes to opening Universities.
Another aspect mentioned was the relationship Higher Education has with Basic Education in terms of Matrics. Matric results come out on 23 February which this makes the proposed academic dates easier. Students don't apply then, they apply now, said the Minister as he urged students to apply to universities and TVET colleges now.
The Department of Higher Education is therefore working with the Department of Basic Education to figure out how the Basic Education academic period will affect the incoming University academic year.
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