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Wits will ‘probably’ overrun into 2021 academic year

Image: Christophe Hendrickx [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Vice-chancellor Adam Habib pushes for online teaching, while accepting not everyone has access

The vice-chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand has admitted that the university will likely not be able to complete the 2020 academic year by the end of December.

Adam Habib told a 12 May virtual seminar on the effects of Covid-19 on African higher education that the Wits’ academic programme “will probably be running into the new academic year”.

On 7 May Blade Nzimande, the minister of higher education, said that half the country’s universities will struggle to complete the 2020 academic year. Wits is one of the country’s better-resourced universities.

Habib said that up to 5,000 students at Wits do not have access to devices for online learning. This is 15 per cent of the student body. He added that the proportion is much higher at other universities.

Wits is working towards a phased return to campus activities for postgraduate and medical students as well as laboratory and clinical services.

Habib said there has been pressure on university authorities from students, as well as from some academics and politicians, to discontinue online learning unless all students have full access. But Habib said that while universities must be committed to social justice and fighting inequality, this does not mean they should “do nothing”.

“Social justice does not mean we go to the lowest common denominator,” he said.