A third of South Africa's university students are expected to return to campus on 1 June, so they may resume lessons. This is dependent on the country moving down to level three of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, announced this on Saturday, as he briefed the media about his department's strategy to deal with COVID-19.
He said only 33-percent of students would be allowed on campus in the first phase or llf reopening universities.
The following categories of students may return to campus: all medical students that have already returned during alert level four lockdown, students in the final year of their programmes who are due to graduate this year, final year students who require access to laboratories, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to residence and private accommodation, 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 safety protocols).
"Should Level Three be announced to begin on 15 June, then students would be recalled to start two to three weeks thereafter to allow students to travel back to their campuses and institutions to ensure that the campuses are effectively prepared for the return," said Minister Nzimande. He added that once Level Two is announced a further 33-percent will be allowed on campus. Only under Level 1 will all students be allowed to return to campus.
Those who are still not allowed on campus would continue lessons online. Nzimande said his department has successfully negotiated with mobile network companies to grant students data to access education material over a period of three months.
“I am pleased to announce that we have successfully negotiated with all mobile network operators very favourable rates for our NSFAS students, including the Funza Lushaka students, who will receive 10GB daytime and 20GB night-time data for three months, starting from 1 June till end of August. [The data is ] subsidised by government," said the minister.
But students in private universities will not benefit.
“We acknowledge that students who fall within the so-called missing middle category, as well as students in private institutions, also need support in accessing data for their online learning, as many of them also come from homes that are hardest hit by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately government is currently not in a position to subsidize them," said Nzimande.
The minister said travel regulations will be gazetted and institutions of higher learning will issue permits for students who are returning to campus.