GEORGE NEWS - Universities South Africa (Usaf), the South African College Principals Organisation, the South African Union of Students and the labour unions Nehawu, PSA and NTEU have agreed to work together to tackle the epidemic.
This came out of a meeting on Tuesday with the Minister of Social Development, the Deputy Minister and other stakeholders in the post-school education sector.
The post-schooling education and training system (PSET) consists of about 2,5 million students and staff. The measures in place to deal with Covid-19 apply to all applicable institutions including the CET colleges, private higher education institutions and colleges, as well as all training colleges which are managed by other ministries such as Nursing and Agriculture.
The statement says that the department of higher education and training (DHET) has established a Covid-19 team comprising of the universities, colleges, organisations and unions mentioned above.
They have also established a research team made up of the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to look at scientific research and interventions to combat the epidemic.
All post-school institutions are closed for early recess with effect from Wednesday, 18 March. Institutions will return from break on 15 April. Some aspects of institutional activities will continue during this time, such as postgraduate and research work. Institutions will be making use of this break to identify and explore digital and online teaching and learning.
The department says this may be important for contact teaching in a range of programmes at the majority of colleges and universities. It has been agreed that all institutions will announce further measures to be taken to minimise risk to all staff at all institutions, including departments as well as entities.
Student health clinics across institutions have been working with Higher Health to ensure readiness to deal with Covid-19 infections.
The minister urges all students and staff to take appropriate social distancing protocols very seriously. These include limiting social interactions, keeping distance from other people, not shaking hands or hugging, regular hand-washing, immediate consultation with health services in the event that they develop a fever or cough and appropriate self-isolation if they fall ill.
The department estimates that there are about 12 000 South African students studying abroad, 1 500 of them in China. To date no international students have been diagnosed with the virus that they are aware of.
The department calls on all students abroad to keep in touch with their nearest South African missions. It wants all South Africans to follow the guidelines made by the President in his statement on interventions to combat the epidemic.
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