Eager and ready to expand their education and journey into adulthood, varsity goers are now faced with the dismal reality that there will be no face-to-face classes or socialising for the first quarter of 2021 and possibly beyond.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, most tertiary institutions had to move all resources and learning online in 2020, and it looks like 2021 will be no different. As a second wave of the coronavirus hit the country over the festive period with a third wave predicted for the near future, educators are grappling with how they can best accommodate new and old varsity students for the 2021 academic year.
According to News24, one of the first steps will be to reduce the intake of students. University of South Africa was informed by Blade Nzimande, Higher Education and Training Minister, to reduce its first-year intake by 20 000. This is to ensure that the National Students Financial Aid Scheme is not overburdened as many Covid-19 measures are put in place.
Universities of South Africa executive director, Professor Ahmed Bawa, has also announced that integrating first-year varsity students would be the biggest task for most tertiary institutions. His concern lies mostly with new undergraduate students from rural areas who do not have access to a reliable internet connection at home and are therefore not familiar with online learning.
“The emphasis has to be on those students who are at risk and bringing them in and getting them to use the technology that is available on campus. Many universities are therefore planning a whole orientation process with new incoming students to bring them up to speed on how to use online learning platforms”, Bawa said.
Some universities are still encouraging students to live on campus and to utilise many of the resources found on-site. However, “physically distanced learning” will be enforced, and online learning will still be the dominant way of communication, where possible.
This has left many eager learners disheartened and anxious about what lies ahead. There will be no socials, group study sessions, or learning from fellow students. But come what may, educators are encouraging students to keep there chins up and their minds open as they embark on a path that will shape their futures.