Minister Nzimande outlines his plans for the Academic Year 2020

Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on Thursday 30 April outlined the plans for the 2020 academic year, including the possibility that it might extend to 2021. NAPTOSA concurs with the Minister that whilst trying to save the 2020 academic year, it must not be at the expense of the lives of our children and staff at institutions of higher learning.

The Minister assured the nation that in his attempt to save lives, campus-based academic activity throughout the Public Service Education and Training (PSET) sector, including all universities and TVET colleges, both public and private, will not resume during the Level Four (4) lockdown period.

NAPTOSA welcomes the Minister’s decision to use this period, from 1 May until South Africa transitions to a lower COVID-19 risk phase, to put several critical interventions in place across the PSET system. The interventions include inter alia:

  • Developing and implementing effective multi-modal remote learning systems (digital, analogue and physical delivery of learning materials) to provide a reasonable level of academic support to all students.
  • Securing a universal access deal with the major Mobile Network Operators around data and connectivity to support remote learning.
  • In areas where digital means of study are not ready, students will be provided with instructional material.
  • Provision of laptops to students and strengthening pedagogic teaching and learning models.
  • Radio and TV broadcasts have already begun in key subjects, are in the process of being expanded and will continue for 6 months.
  • The use of textbooks, e-Guides, past question papers and uploaded You Tube videos are strongly advocated and supported through bulk sms/es from Colleges and Whats App groups set up by lecturers.

When students return to campuses, protocols will be in place for the maintenance of physical distancing, access to hand sanitisers and protective masks and continual deep cleaning of facilities. NAPTOSA is pleased that the Department will also be providing mental health and other forms of support necessary for staff and students. We also support the screening/testing of staff and students and the regular cleaning of campuses and residences.

Technical And Vocational Education And Training (Tvet)

TVET Colleges will have to reorganise the academic year to enable students to complete trimester 1 and 2 for Engineering Studies, both semesters for Business Studies and the full year for NC(V) programmes.

NAPTOSA will participate in the revision of the calendar and in consultations to determine the date for trimester 3 which was expected to take place from August to November 2020 but will be deferred to a later date. This is to ensure that students are adequately prepared for the examinations.

Community Education And Training (Cet)

The resumption of teaching and learning in the Community Education and Training sector will be staggered in accordance with the revised academic calendar.

The Minister indicated that priority will be given to students doing the General Education and Training Certificate: Adult Basic Education and Training (GETC: ABET) and the Senior Certificate in preparation for sitting for the October/November 2020 exams.

The lower level classes, AET 1-3, will resume on a later date aligned to the phasing in of grades in the school system. The writing of the CET May/June GETC: ABET examinations, which were supposed to commence on 20 May 2020, have been postponed to the end of the year.

To recoup the number of days lost during lockdown, the number of College holidays will be reduced for June and September 2020. NAPTOSA will be engaged in the revision of the academic year calendar.

Because most centres operate from schools, the CET academic calendar will have to be aligned with that of the Department of Basic Education.

Skills Development And Training

NAPTOSA takes cognisance of learners that have to gain workplace experience and commend the Minister for ensuring that during the months of May-June learners return to workplaces and training institutions in line with their gradual opening as per Level 4 guidelines.

The Minister is also commended for issuing a directive to all Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) to continue with the payment of learner stipends during the nationwide lockdown period.

Generally, NAPTOSA is pleased with strategies the Minister has put in place and for those he still intends to put in place. NAPTOSA will continue to monitor developments and to engage the Department in the revision of academic calendars for both TVET and CET Colleges.

Members should continue to be eyes and ears on the ground so that we are able to engage the Department meaningfully