Yesterday the Department of Higher Education held a media briefing to unpack the situation with regard to university campuses reopening under lockdown level 2. There, Minister Blade Nzimande noted that universities were to operate at 66 percent student capacity, as per the regulations outlined by government under level 2.

The minister also advised that the academic year would end in February of 2021, which is something that had previously been mentioned by the department.

“I am aware that there have been different approaches and strategies for completion across the system, and some institutions have faced difficulties in implementing their teaching and learning plans effectively,” said Nzimande.

“However, we have been doing everything possible to ensure that we support institutions to respond in the best possible way to the many challenges that have arisen during the pandemic,” he added.

Of greater interest to us, and likely students to, was the department’s different risk levels for 26 of the country’s universities, being broken down into either low, medium or high depending on what threat the spread of COVID-19 posed on respective campuses.

To that end, Nzimande explained that government identified 14 low risk universities, as well as six medium and six high risk ones.

The breakdown, as per the department is as follows:

Low Risk

  • Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)
  • Nelson Mandela University (NMU)
  • North-West University (NWU)
  • Rhodes University (RU)
  • Sol Plaatje (SPU)
  • University of Cape Town (UCT)
  • University of Johannesburg (UJ)
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN)
  • University of Pretoria (UP)
  • University of South Africa (UNISA)
  • Stellenbosch University (SU)
  • University of the Western Cape (UWC)
  • University of the Witwatersrand (WITS)
  • University of Zululand (UNIZULU)

Medium Risk

  • Durban University of Technology (DUT)
  • Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)
  • University of Limpopo (UL)
  • University of Mpumalanga (UMP)
  • University of the Free State (UFS)
  • University of Venda (UNIVEN)

High Risk

  • Central University of Technology (CUT)
  • Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT)
  • Sefako Makgatho University (SMU)
  • University of Fort-Hare (UFH)
  • Vaal University of Technology (VUT)
  • Walter Sisulu University (WSU

These risk levels are not set in stone, but serve as a measurement for those universities deemed medium or high risk to work on getting to a low risk rating, as well as those currently rated low risk to maintain said level.

“Special support measures will be put in place to ensure academic activities resume at an accelerated pace at these universities,” added Nzimande.

With the academic year already thrown into turmoil for many, the return to campuses carries great risk for South Africa’s learners.

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