Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande announced on Tuesday that the prerequisite for all tertiary education students and staff returning to campuses was to register to the HealthCheck platform.
Under Level 4 of the national lockdown, final year university students were allowed to return to universities on May 1.
Nzimande congratulated not-for-profit organisation Higher Education and Training Health, Wellness and Development Centre for the launch of HealthCheck – a tool that allows for the early detection, mapping and management of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases on campuses.
The data is then fed to the national Department of Health’s tracking and tracing system.
The tool is available in USSD and WhatsApp and is also Web-based. It allows users to self-check their body temperature. (Visit the website for more information on HealthCheck.)
Based on the answers entered on the platform, users receive a low, moderate, or high-level risk reading. If the risk is low, the individual will receive clearance, valid for 24 hours.
Nzimande has also urged universities and colleges to consider the mental health implications of all decisions made relating to combatting Covid-19.
“Higher Health has been walking the Covid-19 awareness, prevention and care journey with universities and TVET colleges for several months. The focus now has shifted to shining the Higher Health spotlight on private higher education institutions and community education and training colleges. We want to ensure all students and campus staff have the tools and information necessary to deal with coronavirus,” he said.
RETURNING TO CAMPUS, RESIDENCES
Under Level 3 of the national lockdown, Nzimande announced that 33% of an institution’s student population will be allowed to return to campus, delivery sites and residences if they are safely accommodated for in line with the health protocols of the national DoH.
Those students cleared to return to campus include 2020 graduating students, and final year and postgraduate students needing access to laboratories, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to residence and private accommodation.
Also allowed to return are students in all years of study that require clinical training in their programmes – provided that the clinical training platforms have sufficient space and can accommodate them while adhering to the safety protocols.
“We have also made provision that institutions may consider selected return of other categories of students to residences who may face extreme difficulties in their home learning environments provided that the above categories are prioritized, and all safety and logistical requirements are met. I have also published directions that outline the criteria for return to campuses. These were developed in consultation with Universities South Africa and the Council on Higher Education,” said Nzimande.
Meanwhile, community education and training colleges are preparing for the return of staff and students.
Students registered for the General Education Training Certificate, Senior Certificate or National Occupational Certificate qualifications or part-qualifications can return on June 23.
Technical and vocational education and training colleges will return in a phased manner.
NATED Trimester (Engineering) students
N6 & N3: June 10
N5 & N2: June 15
N4 & N1: June 22
NATED Semester (Business Studies) students
N6: June 25
N5: June 29
N4: July 06
Level 4: July 13
Level 3: July 20
Level 2: July 27
“A campus-based approach will be applied where colleges are affected by different lockdown levels. I urge students to use the developed learning materials, both for TV and radio broadcasts, which are also shared through the DHET website. Colleges also continue to use textbooks, e-Guides, past question papers, and uploaded YouTube videos to further assist students. We will also continue to support remotely students until they return to campus according to the phase-in process,” said Nzimande.
He urged all institutions to adhere to strict health protocols in student residences and also reiterated that the maximum admissible percentage of students per residence is 33%.
Students who live in private rented accommodation close to campuses may also return provided physical distancing arrangements are in place.
Priority must be given to students with disabilities, those with no connectivity or those who are living in circumstances where studying is difficult, said Nzimande.
“I would like to urge all South Africans and our students to protect themselves and others from the spread Covid-19. You all can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading Covid-19 by taking some simple precautions, which include amongst others regularly and thoroughly cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water and by maintaining at least 1 m distance between yourself and others,” he said.