While the University of South Africa (Unisa) is primarily a distance learning institution, that doesn’t mean it has not been affected by the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.

The school provided an update on its website about how it is handling this pandemic, with the cancellation of graduation ceremonies and more announced a few days ago.

Now Unisa has provided a further bit of communication to students in the form of an email. This email comes from Unisa’s Department of Communication Science team, so students studying a qualification not related to this department may not see it, and may not be subject to its contents.

“All assignment due dates remain as is, there can be no further extensions granted in this respect in order to accommodate the semester accordingly,” a part of the email reads.

Those wondering why the extensions are referred to as “further”, it is because of delays the university caused itself long before COVID-19 became a factor. At the start of the 2020 semester the extremely late release of examination results caused registrations to be delayed three times. This lead to the university granting all students extensions to both assignments and examinations.

It seems that Unisa’s own extensions have left no time in the semester to accommodate for problems caused by COVID-19.

Outside of assignments the examinations must be mentioned. While they have been moved, as mentioned above, the current national emergency declared by president Cyril Ramaphosa has prohibited gatherings of more than 100 people. This makes collecting students in halls for these examinations difficult, and Unisa has not provided a solid solution for this at the time of writing.

How lecturers will be operating during this pandemic going forward, and what this means for students, can be found in the rest of the email provided below:

“The university management in trying to manage the safety of employees due to the Corona virus has requested staff to work from home, as a precautionary measure to the spread of the virus.

The department will continue to function online. All lecturers are available on email and telephonically as per normal working hours. However most services will occur in a virtual environment now. Please note lecturers have a 48-hour rule to reply to all emails and all lecturers will be available telephonically, via their office numbers as printed in tutorial letter 101/2020.”