While considering implementation of policies and measures for a return to contact classes, some universities have moved to make the vaccination process easier for staff and students.  

Rhodes University and Wits University are developing vaccination policies that might include compulsory vaccinations before students can return for face-to-face lessons, to reduce the number of possible covid transmissions in future. 

In a statement released on August 19, Rhodes said it was considering making vaccinations mandatory for students to return to in-person classes. “As a risk mitigation measure, the university is exploring and learning from the experiences of other institutions about the appropriateness or otherwise of making vaccination mandatory for accessing the university campus and facilities by eligible individuals,” reads the statement.

While it did not specify which universities Rhodes was taking its cue from, and senior communications officer Velile Bukula was unable to provide more information, several US and Canadian universities require their students to be vaccinated before returning to campus.  

Rhodes and Wits have said some sort of vaccination strategy is important in order to resume face-to-face teaching, while keeping the health and safety of staff and students in mind. 

Neither Rhodes nor Wits would say more about what their policies would look like. Shirona Patel, communications manager at Wits, said only: “Wits’ multiple constituencies are currently being consulted before it is finalised. It will also address the plight of students and staff members who have co-morbidities.  

“Contact learning and teaching remains a core component of Wits’ plan, and we would want to have students and lecturers back on campus as soon as it is safe to do so,” Patel said, on why it is important for Wits to develop a vaccination policy. 

Some universities, however, are not in a rush to develop vaccination policies. The University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) student affairs director, Dr Matete Madiba, said UP has no plans to make vaccinations mandatory: “The university encourages all to vaccinate, but does not force anyone, and it is not a precondition for coming to campus or attending class.”  

Each of these universities has made plans to make the process easier for those who wish to vaccinate, while future measures are being considered.   

Rhodes has a vaccination site at the university’s Gavin Relly Postgraduate Village, which is open to students, staff and the community. Siku Mahayi, a third-year bachelor of science student, got vaccinated at the on-campus site and said the process was efficient and took 15 minutes. “The person who administered my vaccine was also very helpful because he answered all the questions I had; and there were plenty,” Mahayi said. 

UP has a vaccination site at its Prinshof Campus, but Tapiwa Komichi, a financial management honours student, said he found it difficult to get to. He chose to get vaccinated at a Clicks store instead. 

For the Wits community, arrangements include transport to and from the Liberty vaccination station in Braamfontein. “A pop-up vaccination site at Wits is also being negotiated with a healthcare provider from the week of August 30,” Patel said.  


FEATURED IMAGE: A Wits student prepares to board the bus headed to the vaccination site at the Liberty building, Braamfontein. Photo: Rebecca Kgabo