UCT plans to open residences to students

The University of Cape Town (UCT) has said that academically vulnerable students will be among the first group of students it will allow to return to  campus when it is safe to do so. These are students who the university says might find it difficult to study remotely during the national lockdown.

The university said this group, together with medical students and those who need campus labs to complete their 2020 studies will be allowed to return first in a phased process.

In a statement on Tuesday, UCT said this had been announced by the deputy vice-chancellor for transformation and student affairs Professor Loretta Feris at an online special assembly on Thursday. 

The university said the decision to allow students back into their residences will be guided by regulations that will be announced by the government.

Feris said UCT would depend on the national, provincial and local or district-level directives that balance the health risk with the risk of the university opening. 


Last month, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said no campus-based activity will be allowed throughout the post-school education sector during level four of the lockdown.

“The risk[s] of a return to normal campus-based activity for thousands of students and staff are simply too great, and [universities] cannot function successfully outside of the national context of a general lockdown. Universities … do not operate in a vacuum, but in a historically specific context,” said Nzimande at the time. 

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said most of the country would move to level three at the end of the month, although areas with a higher level of positive Covid-19 cases would not. 

Task team to develop criteria

UCT said it considers academically vulnerable students as those who might find it difficult to study remotely during this time. The university has established a task team that will develop the criteria for vulnerable students, because the institution said it needs to understand the different circumstances in which students find themselves that hinder them from studying remotely. 

“Once the national regulatory framework permits UCT to do so, the intention is to return these students to residence — not for face-to-face learning, but to continue remote learning in residence, with tutorial support,” reads the statement. 

UCT is one of the institutions that has been offering online learning since last month in an effort not to lose out on the academic year. Certain institutions have loaned students laptops, given them data and partnered with cellphone networks to zero-rate content for students. 

However, this approach has not been welcomed by all quarters — particularly student organisations, which have called for students to be allowed to return to campus where they will be able access unlimited internet and will also be in a conducive environment for studying.

UCT said that the department of student affairs had already identified residences for use by final-year medical students, who will be returning on campus, and that there were also screening protocols in place. The institution said these students will have a period of quarantine when they are back on campus. 

This comes after Nzimande said that only final-year medical students would be allowed to return to campuses. 

UCT said it will need to ensure that physical distancing is practised in residence. This means not all beds will be used, and the students will be screened and provided with personal protective equipment. 

Meanwhile, last week, the university announced that it had had eight cases of Covid-19, after a staff member tested positive. The university also said that six people who had tested positive for the virus since it announced its first case in March had since recovered and that there were only two active cases, both of whom were staff members. 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures are relaxed or ignored

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

Deconstructing South Africa’s construction industry performance

The construction industry has contracted sharply, partly due to Covid, and needs to rebalance its focus if it wants to survive

Fort Hare students test positive for Covid after partying

The 30 students, who went to a bash at a tavern in East London, were not wearing masks, did not sanitise their hands nor keep to social distancing regulations.

Black construction businesses sidelined

When it comes to mega infrastructure projects, it is still the mega white-owned companies who score government contracts

Tracking, tracing and transparency

Governments are processing tons of personal information to limit the spread of Covid-19. They must ensure this does not cost us our privacy
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Fake trafficking news targets migrants

Exaggerated reports on social media of human trafficking syndicates snatching people in broad daylight legitimate xenophobia while deflecting from the real problems in society

It’s not a ‘second wave’: Covid resurges because safety measures...

A simple model shows how complacency in South Africa will cause the number of infections to go on an upward trend again

Unisa shortlists two candidates for the vice-chancellor job

The outgoing vice-chancellor’s term has been extended to April to allow for a smooth hand-over

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday