IN QUOTES | Blade Nzimande says students and staff affected by Covid-19 will receive counselling

01 October 2020 - 06:27
By Cebelihle Bhengu
Higher education minister Blade Nzimande said no universities are now high risk.
Image: GCIS Higher education minister Blade Nzimande said no universities are now high risk.

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande gave an update on level 1 lockdown regulations relating to the Covid-19 pandemic during a press briefing on Wednesday.

He spoke about the impact the coronavirus had on the sector and announced initiatives to help those affected by it.

Included in these is a 24-hour dedicated toll-free student mental health support service, run by a dedicated team of experienced psychologists, social workers and counsellors from the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag). 

Nzimande also announced the return of all university students to campus, after the country recently moved to level 1 of the nationwide national lockdown.

Here are six critical quotes from his address:

Covid-19 related deaths 

“By September 22, we had lost 89 members of our public higher education to deaths from the virus. Of these, 53 are from universities (44 were staff and 9 students) and 36 are from Technical Vocational Education & Training (TVET) colleges with 11 students and 25 staff members.”

Covid-19 counselling 

“Higher health has also introduced other innovative measures and solutions, the latest being the 24-hour dedicated toll-free student mental health support service, run through a dedicated team of experienced psychologists, social workers and counsellors from the SA Depression and Anxiety Group.

“The service supports students, survivors of GBV, and other challenges due to Covid-19.”

An invitation for all university students to return to campuses 

“We are now in a position to welcome back 100% of our university students, including all international students who are outside the borders.

“All universities are implementing their plans to return students and staff from the first of October, subject to any restrictions linked to their own risk assessments.

“Some institutions have indicated that not all students are taking up their invites to return to campuses, preferring to continue to work remotely.

“While we understand and accept this, given the fear that parents and students still have, we want to encourage parents and students to ensure that teaching and learning are not compromised, as we would not like to see a lower pass rate in this academic year, to the extent that we can help it.”

A return to residences?

“In terms of return to residences, there were 54,561 students living in university-owned residences by September 22. This is about 48% of the residence capacity, with 121,000 beds across the system.

“In addition, institutions reported that there were a further 49,360 students living in university-leased and managed accommodation, 21,022 students living in university-accredited private accommodation and 34,594 students living in other forms of private accommodation.”

How lecture halls and outside venues will be managed

“We will now be able to move to a 50% occupancy of rooms up to a maximum of 250 people indoors at a time, with ventilation of rooms remaining critical.

“We will also be allowing the hosting of outside gatherings of up to 500 people at a time, as per the guidelines announced by the president.”

Daily screenings

“Higher health has capacitated, through continuous on-site training over 13,000 front-line staff across our campuses that are working towards assisting in the Covid-19 response on a daily basis.

“Furthermore, over 3,200 staff and student volunteers have been trained and capacitated to participate in implementing daily screening, prevention and daily screening and education initiatives.”

Devices and data provisions

“Our monitoring reports show that, of the students that indicated they required a digital device, a laptop or a tablet, 68% of the university population have actually received this.

“The provision of data to university students remains high across the system. On average, the system has 94% of undergraduate students who are being provided with data.

“It is expected that data provision will decrease in the next few months as more students return to campus and have access to campus networks and wi-fi.”

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