Western Cape universities have released a series of statements about their COVID-19 containment strategies for the 2021 academic year, set to commence in March.
The universities are awaiting government confirmation to approve their plans for the 2021 academic year amid rising COVID-19 infections. Lockdown regulations enforced at the end of December are set to expire on 15 January and the universities will need to apply changes to regulations and protocols before they reopen their doors, with most academic programs commencing in March.
“For staff and students that need to be on campus the same protocol as per 2020 would apply. We will still be limiting numbers, permission and access letters will be required and screening will continue for those allowed to return to campus”, University of the Western Cape (UWC) spokesperson Gasant Abarder said, according to IOL. “For now the university will await the government’s announcement as per regulations and protocols that will be in effect after January 15 and then communicate a strategy in line with that.”
Stellenbosch University spokesperson, Martin Viljoen, meanwhile, has said that the university is preparing for different scenarios and potential regulations that the government may choose to enforce.
“Students in our Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences starting with clinical rotations during the first and second weeks of January 2021 will resume their training as communicated previously, but now within the protocols for level 3,” Viljoen said.
“It is not only individual universities that are adapting to the pandemic, the higher education model itself is changing. The lockdown restrictions on physical contact and large gatherings forced universities to suspend face-to-face tuition and switch to emergency remote teaching, learning, and assessment. Not without its challenges, the transition to a new teaching model has been successful to such an extent that it is bound to have a lasting effect on what we offer to whom, and how. Switching to fully online learning is still an interim emergency measure though, and Stellenbosch University will be resuming contact teaching as soon as possible.”
The University of Cape Town (UCT) spokesperson, Elijah Moholola, said that all students, local and foreign, should expect to be back on campus by 15 March.
“Students in the Faculty of Health Sciences will need to be back earlier,” Moholola explained. “During the first semester of 2021, UCT will offer all undergraduate courses in a physically distanced learning (PDL) mode”.
“The Faculty of Health Sciences will manage its various programs through a combination of online lectures and PDL in laboratories and on the clinical platform, according to COVID-19 health protocols. On registration, students will need to sign a commitment of adherence to COVID-19 health and safety protocols before being allowed on campus. UCT will identify study spaces on campus that meet health protocols for the use of day students.”