Physical methods of teaching will only resume once institutional health and safety requirements are met.

Wits University says it will likely introduce a “phased return over many weeks and months,” in light of the announcement by Blade Nzimande that universities and TVET colleges would not be resuming campus-based activities under level 4 lockdown of the national lockdown, on Thursday, April 30. This is according to Prof Adam Habib, Wits vice chancellor.

Once campuses are allowed to re-open, Habib says, “We will follow government guidelines in ensuring that the campus students and staff return to has been cleaned, and that personal protective equipment is available.” Nzimande announced that before the re-opening of universities and TVET colleges, various health and safety measures, such as deep cleaning and bio-safety protocols, will be implemented, in order to establish campus readiness.

Additionally, Nzimande announced that, by the beginning of June, all universities and TVET colleges are required to have multiple flexible teaching methods in place. Wits, along with most other universities around the country, has already commenced remote online teaching. Habib says that, “where students have not been able to take up this online opportunity for good reason, they will be given an alternative physical pathway of learning as and when we return to campus.”

“Social justice doesn’t require a retreat to the lowest common denominator. It requires being conscious of the deep inequalities within our midst and to mitigate it’s consequences,” Habib tells Wits Vuvuzela.

In order to reduce the various challenges to remote online learning faced by parts of the student community, Nzimande announced that all NSFAS students, as well as other students in need, will be provided with the necessary “materials” for remote learning.

Wits and other institutions including the universities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria, have begun distributing online resources to students in need such as laptops and data. Habib says, “We have established a computer loan scheme and provided 30 gigs of data for all students.”

Additionally, plans for the re-opening of schools were also announced at the same briefing on April 30. Minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, confirmed that learners will only be returning on June 1 through a phased process starting with the grades 12 and 7 at first.

However, she says, “We won’t allow any schools to resume teaching and learning if they don’t meet the health and safety standards.”

In an effort to salvage the year, Nzimande announced that the academic calendar will be re-organised. This will include the reduction of holiday periods and the prospect of extending academic activities into 2021.

FEATURED IMAGEWits University says it will likely introduce a “phased return over many weeks and months, according to vice chancellor of Wits, Prof Habib. Photo: File