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Half of SA universities struggle to complete academic year

Some have not resumed teaching for a significant proportion of students

South African universities will be expected to begin the 2021 academic year between 15 March and 15 April, but many will struggle to make that deadline.

Blade Nzimande, the minister of higher education and training, issued the announcement and the warning in a news conference on 26 August.

After receiving reports on “readiness and operational indicators”, the Department of Higher Education and Training has identified that about half the country’s universities are at medium to high risk of missing the dates. Six universities apiece are judged medium and high risk. The high risk category includes troubled institutions like Fort Hare and Sefako Makgatho.

“Some universities have not adequately resumed academic teaching and learning for a significant proportion of their student populations since March when the recess period started,” said Nzimande.

Universities closed their campuses in response to the Covid-19 lockdown. A phased reopening is under way, but some institutions say they won’t resume face to face teaching this year.

Nzimande said that “special support measures” will be put in place to help the 12 ‘’outlier institutions” complete the academic year.

Nzimande added that he is “concerned about the wide range of variation” in progress towards the end of the 2020 academic year and preparations for the 2021 one.

Two-thirds of university populations may now return to campuses under level two lockdown regulations.