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Mental health a priority as South African students return to campuses


KwaZulu-Natal support model a blueprint for the country, says minister

South Africa’s higher education response to the novel coronavirus pandemic will have a “special focus” on mental health, the higher education minister said on 9 June. 

“Covid-19 is not just a bodily infection, it also affects the mental health of people who are sick or have lost [loved ones],” Blade Nzimande said in a virtual media briefing.

He announced that the government will use a model of mental health support developed at the University of KwaZulu-Natal that includes online counselling as a blueprint for services that will later be rolled out at other universities. 

Nzimande’s comments come as South African universities prepare to re-open after more than two months of lockdown. This month some students have been allowed back, including postdoctoral students who need access to labs. However, it will probably be months before all students are back, and online teaching and learning is likely to be part of the mix for months. 

Nzimande said all students and staff must be screened for Covid-19 every day if they return to campus. Students and staff will gain access only if they have been screened at least once in the previous 24-hour period, he said.