Parliament, 21 April 2020 – The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology and the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture today received a briefing from the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology on the plans of the Department to rescue the 2020 academic year.

The Minister briefed members of both committees on different scenarios of phasing in return to the academic year for both the TVET College and the university sectors. The scenarios included, among others, the implementation of online and remote learning and teaching methodologies for the university and TVET College students from 4 May 2020.

This method of learning would be followed later by a phased in contact learning and teaching at universities and TVET colleges where students will be allowed to go back to their campuses.

However, the latter is dependent on the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic, with infections expected to significantly increase in June and July, and possibly peak around September, as per the scenarios by health experts

The committees noted initiatives put in place to support learning for the TVET College students, which include, broadcast of remote learning strategies through Khetha radio programme, postponement of the last trimester examination to 20201, uploading recorded televised lessons on the colleges websites, and the uploading of previous exam papers on the Department’s National Open Learning Programme.

“While welcoming all these initiatives to salvage the 2020 academic year, we implore the Department of Higher Education and Training with all the stakeholders to ensure that no one is left behind. The committees were briefed by the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Mr Buti Manamela, who is also the Chairperson of the Task Team, that notwithstanding the agreement reached by the Post-School Education and Training Covid-19 Task Team to commence with online and remote learning from 4 May 2020, some institutions, particularly those from historically advantaged institutions, have commenced with online learning on 20 April 2020, leaving others behind.

The committees urged the Department to ensure that there is a sector wide solutions, which would take everyone on board and ensure that all institutions return to the academic year in a well-coordinated manner,” Mr Philly Mapulane said.

“We recognize that there continues to be huge inequalities in the system as a result of the legacy of the colonial and apartheid past, however, we cannot afford to act in a manner that perpetuates these historic inequalities. We require a nationally co-ordinated response by the entire sector in rescuing the 2020 academic year, taking into account the unique learning and teaching environments and the profile of the student population in each of our institution.”

“The success of the online learning and teaching will largely be dependent on students’ access to learning devices such as laptops, tablets, network connectivity and conducive environments for online learning,” Mr Mapulane emphasised.

The committees noted the unavailability of detailed plans from each institution on how they planned to rescue the 2020 academic year. In this regard the committees welcomed the commitment by the Minister to engage with the universities to obtain this information. The committees would like to have a follow-up engagement with department as soon as this information is available.

The committees commended the work done by the Department of Science and Innovation, working with its entities and other stakeholders to provide support to government in fighting Covid-19 pandemic.

The plans by the DSI to extend its research and innovation support to the SADC region and the African continent is applauded.


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