ACADEMIC activities are still closed at the University of Kwa- Zulu-Natal (UKZN) this week as the institution engages in discussions with the Student Representative Council about the demands brought forward by the student body.
UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo said the university was still in talks with the SRC. The talks included funding for postgraduate studies; the university previously said it could not meet demand, despite having allocated R119million for postgraduate studies.
Another grievance brought forward was poor security at the institution’s campuses. The Daily News has previously reported that the SRC had complained about poor security at residences. Students also wanted access to wi-fi at their residences.
Mangosuthu University of Technology spokesperson Bheki Hlophe said the university was drawing up a catch-up programme, which would be submitted to its senate this week.
Universities with rising Covid-19 cases will be shut down
Higher Education Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande revealed that the rising Covid-19 cases within universities are a cause for concern as this will lead the department to shut down these universities.
During a briefing on the reopening of universities, the Minister mentioned that there were 3888 confirmed positive cases. The department’s duty will be to closely monitor universities to ensure that both students and staff are safe.
Minister Nzimande also mentioned that the department is expecting to receive statics this week which will determine the action the department should take in terms of allowing students and staff access to universities.
“In universities, there were positive cases that were reported of about 3 888 with 1 499 staff and 1 588 students. The total number of deaths by 13 November was 58 – 48 staff, 10 students. As I’m saying, we will be receiving updated reports on infections and fatalities on the 20th of this month and we want to make it clear that if we identify that there is a rapid increase in particular institutions or campuses of infections, we will close those institutions, no doubt about that. ”
The ups and downs of the 2021 academic year
Universities are preparing to begin the 2021 academic year. This has however been met with challenges as some universities had to lower their first-year intake.
The University of South Africa (UNISA) lowered its first-year intake by 20 000 to ensure sustainability. Another reason was due to the inability of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme ( NSFAS) to meet the high demands.
This decision has received backlash as a lot of student hopefuls won’t be receiving access to study.
The University has said that this move was necessary and it also follows an order from Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, which serves to prevent the university from experiencing a backlog when the academic year starts in March.
“From what I can gather, the minister’s question to limit Unisa’s intake is really to bring it back into its enrollment planning. What that means is that Unisa will be in a position where it is admitting 20,000 fewer students this year and that, of course, has consequences in terms of access.”, said Universities South Africa CEO Ahmed Bawa.
UKZN halts re-opening for the year 2021
As Institutions of Higher learning are preparing to re-open for the 2021 academic year, they are also looking into unpacking the implications of new COVID-19 regulations.
The University of Kwazulu-Natal postponed its re-opening on January 4 until January 18. According to the university’s spokesperson Normah Zondo, the university decided to suspend its reopening due to that, “both the district municipalities within which UKZN campuses are located have been declared Covid-19 hotspots.”
The university will revisit this decision once further directives are given by the President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Blade Nzimande.
It was further stated that the University will continue with its academic activities online and that registration processes will take place online, commencing on the 18th of January.