Ministers to promote zero-rated access to online content

African information and communications technology (ICT) ministers have agreed to promote the zero rating of access to educational content to support university students confined at home during COVID-19 lockdowns on the continent.

The ministers forged the declaration after meeting via video conferencing on 5 May as the Bureau of the Specialized Technical Committee on Communication and ICT.

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OPINION: Covid-19 will accelerate digital transformation in higher education sector

Due to the demands imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, South African universities that were previously dependent on face-to-face contact with students have turned to online and remote learning almost overnight.

While this has been a culture shock, I believe that this different way of learning will bring an element of flexibility and dexterity to the learning process. Equally so, it will accelerate digital transformation in the higher education sector.

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Pandemic shows need for HE for the global common good

There are striking differences between countries and cultures in the manner in which the pandemic experience has been regulated. These differences are associated with variations in the outcomes of the pandemic and have also had practical consequences for higher education.

Remarkably, the market model of higher education has been expected to operate more or less as normal in this highly abnormal time. However, the ‘business as usual’ approach to the pandemic in higher education is emblematic of broader attitudes.

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Universities of technology in the post-COVID-19 landscape

Similar to commerce and industry, universities have in recent times had to revert to coping and turnaround strategies to address economic, geo-political, societal, technological and environmental demands – with some of these infringing on their mandates of freedom, independence and innovation. Such strategies have increasingly required universities to adopt a generally lower risk appetite, facilitated by centralised and expanded line-function, reduced delegated authority, and protracted decision-making and bureaucracy.

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Varsities try to tackle cash crunch

The vice-chancellors (VCs) of South Africa’s 26 public universities will meet on Friday to hold a special board meeting to discuss the cash crunch facing the sector because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Universities South Africa (Usaf), an umbrella body made up of vice-chancellors, said the meeting would also be attended by chief finance officers of universities.

University of Pretoria VC Tawana Kupe, who also chairs Usaf’s funding strategy group, and Ahmed Bawa, the Usaf CEO, were tasked with guiding the the workshop. Bawa said this special gathering would “look at the factors impacting the long-term sustainability of the higher education sector, scenarios for 2021 and beyond, as well as what the future holds for the sector. “Furthermore, it was suggested to explore a stimulus package for the sector,” he said.

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How the CARES Act Impacts Charitable Giving

On March 27, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act includes tax benefits related to charitable giving.

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Urgent need for HE to bridge digital divide and share resources

COVID-19 has thrown into stark relief the imperatives to bridge the digital divide and to share resources across Africa. Higher education has a key role to play in advancing both of those goals, including by teaching digital skills and collaborating in postgraduate training and research, according to the World Bank and African Development Bank.

An example of the potential of regional collaboration was given. The World Bank-supported African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Redeemer’s University managed within three days of COVID-19 arriving in Nigeria, to produce Africa’s first sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 – signalling Africa’s growing contribution to global science.

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COVID-19 drives development of online laboratories

African universities have recognised the potential of online laboratories in promoting science education. And while online experiments are especially relevant during COVID-19, there are significant challenges.

"The current situation has prompted African universities to switch their training to distance learning," Professor Abdelhalim Benachenhou, director of electromagnetism and guided optics in the faculty of exact and computer science at the University of Abdelhamid Ibn Badis Mostaganem in Algeria, told University World News.

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Donor funding – “COVID-19 will change everything”

The growing need for universities to reduce their dependence on external funding and international philanthropy and pursue sustainable, locally focused funding strategies was highlighted in discussions at last week’s webinar hosted by the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP).

Speaking frankly on the topic of “COVID-19 Impact in Africa: Opportunities for Partnership and Engagement”, Innocent Chukwuma, West African regional director for the Ford Foundation, said funding for universities and civil society organisations in Africa was likely to dwindle after current efforts by private foundations to assist institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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One thousand scholarships for disadvantaged students

Up to 1,000 high-performing undergraduate university students in Africa are expected to benefit from a partnership between the United States International University-Africa (USIU-Africa) in Kenya and the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program.

The US$63.2 million partnership will enable students across the continent to receive good-quality higher education and leadership development over the next 10 years, with the first scholarships expected to begin in the 2020-21 academic year. It will offer end-to-end support to the students, including access to internships and industry-driven career services.

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Unleashing academic conferences: “We need to seize this opportunity”

The University of Cape Town (UCT) hosted the first in its series of digital events aimed at reimagining the new global university on Monday 29 June. Challenging international thoughtleaders on the globalisation of higher education, the first conversation asked: how virtual can academic conferences go?

A return to the old normal, with its privileges and patronage, is not possible – or desirable – said UCT vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng as she introduced the series. “This moment of crisis presents us with an opportunity to reshape the world, and we should not let it pass.

“Lockdown has forced us to address the problems of internationalisation that we were already aware of,” she said, among them the unsustainable costs of conference travel and its associated impacts on the environment.

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New Wits University leader – A choice widely welcomed

The appointment of nuclear physicist Professor Zeblon Vilakazi as the new vice-chancellor of one of South Africa’s premier institutions, the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), has received widespread support from stakeholders and industry representatives.

The current vice-principal and deputy vice-chancellor for research and postgraduate studies at Wits, Vilakazi was named as successor to current incumbent, Professor Adam Habib, on 25 June.

Vilakazi chairs the Department of Science and Innovation’s National Working Committee to develop a framework for quantum computing and quantum technology-driven research and innovation in South Africa.

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Higher Education adjusts 2021 academic calendar due to time lost to COVID-19

The academic year for universities will only be completed in the early part of next year, announced Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande on Wednesday afternoon. He was speaking about the progress made and measures implemented by his department during level 3 of the Covid-19-enforced national lockdown.

“This will mean a later start to the 2021 academic year for many students and a readjustment of the 2021 academic calendar,” Nzimande said.

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Cambodia: Going digital – The second phase of HE transformation

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on higher education institutions globally, including in Cambodia. The physical closure of campuses has meant the rapid adoption of digital technologies to continue the delivery of education to students.

This unplanned move to online platforms and pedagogies has meant a leapfrog into a future of digital learning that no higher education institution was truly prepared for. It has been suggested that, although COVID-19 has disrupted education systems, it has also offered an opportunity for new ways of learning and teaching through the digital transformation of education delivery.

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Collegiality, communication key to easing pandemic psych problems

Amid the psychosocial fallout of COVID-19 on campuses, where fear and anxiety levels run high, some actions have proved helpful to students and staff, including collegiality, regular debriefings and intensive, clear communication. There has been demand for resilience and life skills training.

So agreed presenters at a webinar hosted by the Alliance for African Partnership or AAP, a consortium of 11 universities in Africa and Michigan State University. “Coping with Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19 in Higher Education: Responses and lessons learned” was the fifth in a series of six AAP public dialogues. University World News is the media partner.

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South Korea: University is first to agree partial tuition fees refund

A major private university in Seoul became the first Korean institution this week to say it would partially refund tuition fees to students. This has boosted a major student campaign to have fees returned because of online classes, which students say have been substandard.

Konkuk University on Tuesday 16 June announced plans to cut tuition fees for the fall semester which begins in September, saying it would set the amount of the discount for some 15,000 students after discussions with student representatives this week. It has held a series of meetings with the student council since April.

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Climate change is universities’ most important mission

Universities are confronting the possibility of profound sector-wide transformation due to the continuing effects of COVID-19. It is prompting much-needed debate about what such transformation should look like and what kind of system is in the public interest.

This is now an urgent conversation. If universities want a say in what the future of higher education will look like, they will need to generate ideas quickly and in a way that attracts wide public support.

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Special Report: Food security/insecurity

Reduced food and nutrition security, particularly for the poor, as a result of COVID-19 prompts an immediate policy response. In the fourth of a six-part dialogue series hosted by the Alliance for African Partnership or AAP, university leaders discussed the lessons learned from and policy responses to economic, food security and livelihood impacts of COVID-19 in Africa. The next webinar – dealing with the mental health impacts of COVID-19 in Africa – is on 24 June.

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Unleashing the new global university

The pandemic has disrupted higher education international activities and the income on which universities increasingly depend. But the previous model was already problematic, contributing to global warming and benefitting rich universities more than poor. Unleashing the new global university is a series of virtual events in which we invite innovative, international and local speakers to have challenging conversations that help us rethink global collaborations for a sustainable and equitable planet.

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COVID-19 – A triple threat to food security

Food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa is not news – the region is widely recognised as the world’s most food insecure. And, as participants to last week’s webinar highlighted, the COVID-19 pandemic is just the latest of three threats in as many years to the region’s food systems, following as it does the devastating fall armyworm and desert locust invasions in 2018 and 2019. Such destruction comes over and above the ongoing instability caused by drought and climate change.

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Latin America: The stark COVID-19 challenges HE faces in Latin America

Since the COVID-19 outbreak reached Latin American and Caribbean countries around three months ago, more than 28 million university students (according to UNESCO Institute for Statistics) are now learning remotely in the region. In the meantime, both universities and students are facing truly intense, unprecedented challenges in terms of technological infrastructure, financial matters and resources, among others.

University leaders have had to overcome different issues and universities have had to reinvent themselves so as not to lag behind and also to supply services to millions of students, taking into account that higher education has been one of the sectors that has not stopped despite the devastating nature of the pandemic.

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Netflix CEO donates towards historically black colleges

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, announced on Wednesday 17 June that they have given US$120 million towards scholarships at historically black colleges and universities – the largest individual donation to the institutions to date, writes Kristi Sturgill for the Los Angeles Times.

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COVID-19 hits HE capacity building ties with Global South

The need for capacity development in higher education in the Global South will remain, if not increase, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But can and will initiatives in this area be sustained during the current crisis and beyond?

Many universities support, in one way or another, partner institutions in poorer countries and regions, often in the Global South. Usually the aim is to strengthen the capacity of these partners to offer higher education of good quality, to underscore local development agendas and, along the way, contribute to the global sustainable development agenda. Sometimes research capacity is also developed with similar aims.

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Kenya: Decentralised learning offers a silver lining to COVID-19

Since the arrival of COVID-19 and the consequent closure of colleges and universities, learning is gradually moving online. Many higher institutions of learning in Kenya are doing whatever they can to build an online learning culture among students and faculty. The government announced that learning institutions are not due to reopen until September 2020 and, even then, the opening shall be gradual.

With brick and mortar lecture halls being replaced by networked rooms on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, KENET and other web conferencing platforms, decentralised learning is becoming more pronounced. By decentralised learning I mean the distribution of the key university functions of teaching, research and community service away from a central concrete setup that has a fixed geographic location, to a set up that is internet-based and nearly limitless.

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We need to reimagine higher education, not just repair it

“America is in crisis. Employers say paradoxically they cannot find the right people to fill jobs even though the country is facing its highest unemployment rates in a generation. Competition with a rising China and India and their vast populations lends urgency to the need for the country as a whole to do a better job of educating its citizens.”

The COVID crisis is wreaking havoc with the student experience and higher education institutions around the world. Colleges and universities shifted to remote learning as they were forced to suddenly shut down. Now students and lecturers are anxiously waiting to find out if, when classes resume in September, they will be in person. At some United States colleges, students are staging tuition fee strikes in despair that their degree won’t be considered as valuable under the circumstances.

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South Africa: An inclusive approach to a post-pandemic future

While the South African government took early strides to contain the spread of the coronavirus, a group of academics and civil society actors are now turning their collective thinking to how the country should be managing its socio-economic recovery in a post-pandemic dispensation – using the wealth of expertise available in the country to do so.

A lengthy position paper, recently drafted by the South African Technology Network (SATN) in partnership with national scientists and civil society organisations, has identified a number of priority areas critical to manage post-pandemic challenges. The areas include: human rights and governance, the economy, healthcare, food security and safety, housing, the environment, and water and sanitation.

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A severe risk of growing inequality between universities

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as no other recent phenomenon has. Higher education did not escape the storm. According to UNESCO, on 1 April 2020 schools and higher education institutions were closed in 185 countries, affecting more than 1.5 billion learners, constituting 89.4% of total enrolled learners.

In order to better understand the disruption caused by COVID-19 on higher education and to investigate the first measures undertaken by higher education institutions around the world to respond to the crisis, the International Association of Universities (IAU) launched the IAU Global Survey on the Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education around the World.

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Philosophy Prof does more than her fair share

Mandela University Professor in Philosophy, Andrea Hurst, really has gone above and beyond to embrace the University’s #MaskUp Mandela campaign philosophy of “…each one of us doing something ordinary to ensure an extraordinary impact – that of protecting ourselves and protecting others by simply (making and) wearing masks.”
Starting out very early in the pandemic, Andrea was concerned about the shortage of masks and other protective equipment. So she sat down at her old sewing machine and churned out a whopping 250 masks!

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Race to raise funds for Tshwane University of Technology needy

Pretoria - Tshwane University of Technology lecturers and academic staff rocked their running shoes and engaged in a marathon on Saturday to raise funds for their student food support programme.
The lecturers ran distances ranging from 10km to 90km, led by Professor Khumbulani Mpofu, from SuperSport Park in Centurion to the university’s Pretoria West Campus.

Their mission was to raise money for students facing hunger during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Championing the initiative was Khumbuzile Mdlalose, an alumni and Doctor of Engineering, who said food insecurity was a reality for many students.

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NWU hosts online concert for all

he North-West University (NWU) understands how difficult life is at the moment for both musicians and their fans. With concert venues across the country on lockdown, the NWU has found a way for students, staff and members of the public to enjoy musical performances from the safety of their own homes.

The NWU will be hosting a virtual concert, The NWU Alumni & Friends Concert, on 19 June. It will start at 19:00 and will be live-streamed on the NWU’s various Facebook and Twitter pages.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed life as we know it. As a university we wanted to share some musical joy with our stakeholders during these uncertain times, because no one knows when things will get back to what they used to be,” says NWU stakeholder relations practitioner Louis Janse van Rensburg.

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Mutual support: UP students raise funds to help each other during pandemic

As South Africa and the world have faced rapidly changing circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Pretoria (UP) has developed a number of programmes to help students and staff cope with lockdowns as well as the switch to online teaching and learning. But not only has UP been working to help students who might be disadvantaged by the switch to online learning, many UP students have also swung into action to help their classmates and the broader society.

The leaders of the University of Pretoria’s residences have established the TukRes Solidarity Fund to assist residence students around the country. The fund has distributed R200 000 thus far to help with groceries, toiletries and data required for fellow students in need. Everyone including members of the community who wish to contribute can click here.

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Eastern Cape university goes all in to assist provincial health-care efforts (Nelson Mandela University)

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the health system gaps in the Eastern Cape and nationally. Countrywide, we have to start looking after the health of the entire population in far more streamlined ways, and in close collaboration with the clinicians and health services teams on the ground.

The clinicians in our hospitals are in direct contact with Covid-19 patients; they are at the frontline of the fight against the pandemic, yet their voices are not being sufficiently heard.

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15 Ways Colleges Are Mobilizing to Support Their Communities

As the pandemic has closed campuses, forcing higher education to reinvent itself, many colleges are also meeting this unprecedented moment with a renewed sense of purpose about their role in the community.

Faculty and staff members, as well as students, are contributing and producing medical equipment, preparing buildings for use as health-care facilities, providing Wi-Fi to local residents, and offering services like public information, small-business support, legal aid, and spiritual counseling. From Bonnie Resinski, the costume designer and wardrobe manager for the Center for Fine Arts at Saint Francis University, in Pennsylvania, who realized she could turn yards of fabric left over from a 1998 production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest into medical masks, to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who are developing a design for a simple, inexpensive emergency ventilator, the sector is responding to what the Tufts University president, Anthony Monaco, has called “a Dunkirk moment for our country.”

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Research and Innovation response to COVID-19

The CEO of Universities South Africa (USAf) has requested universities to respond to a call in mapping out the available capacity at various public South African Universities in order to rapidly provide assistance to the public against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nelson Mandela University has identified the institutional strength and on-going research efforts that are available to provide a rapid response in assisting the South African government to protect the public. This mapping will help identify the areas where the university may be best positioned for impact in the immediate, short and long term.

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Public universities are readying themselves for virtual teaching and learning during the national lockdown

Since vice-chancellors received a joint briefing on the COVID-19 virus from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on 19 February, they have sprung into action gearing up their institutions for a concerted response when the epidemic arrives on their campuses. With the number of confirmed cases tallied at 1460 in South Africa (as at 2 April), and with the presence of COVID-19 now confirmed in all provinces of the Republic, the arrival of this pandemic at all university campuses is proving more imminent than ever.

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Relief fund set up for vulnerable CPUT students

Cape Town - The CPUT convocation has established a Covid-19 relief fund for vulnerable students.

Convocation president Saziso Matiwane said students are most affected during tough times, as they often come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The focus of the fund will be to assist students with necessary academic resources to help them complete the 2020 academic year, he added.

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Emergency Remote Teaching: AAU / OER Africa Webinar Series

The spread of the COVID-19 virus and subsequent closure of many universities has severely disrupted academic progress across the globe. To assist lecturers with the implementation of emergency remote teaching (ERT), the Association of African Universities (AAU) and OER Africa is presenting a series of four webinars on ERT strategies.

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Is this the crisis higher education needs to have?

On 29 November 1990, the then Australian treasurer (and future prime minister) Paul Keating, facing a financial crisis that would severely damage major sections of the Australian economy, said: “This was the recession we had to have.” Later, when asked about the statement in an interview, Keating reportedly responded that he would take the blame for it as long as he also got the credit for the subsequent flowering of the Australian economy, and the attendant income growth for average Australians

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Global experts join UJ webinar series in Shaping the Post-COVID World

As government announces plans to revise the national lockdown, a new phase in the Covid-19 pandemic is upon us. It is a time for hope but also a caution. The easing of lockdown will not spell a return to the old 'normal', nor will it be universal. The opening will take different shapes, with different countries, different regions, and different business sectors opening up in different ways and at differing speeds. The virus still lurks and the ability to contain its spread will dictate what happens next.

Hosted by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Wednesday, 13 May 2020 the first episode of UJ's webinar series delved into life beyond Covid-19 and in particular the motivation and impact of varying national lockdown approaches.

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Higher education opportunities after COVID-19

“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

On the 21-27 March cover of The Economist is a picture of a globe with the sign ‘CLOSED’ around it. For most people throughout the world it does seem like the world as we knew it has hit the pause button.

Beginning with the first reported pandemic, near modern-day Port Said in north-eastern Egypt in 541, pandemics have been, by their very nature, disruptive, leaving after the crisis recedes, who knows what? COVID-19 is no different in the all-encompassing scope of its disruption.

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Lockdowns and research: what we lost and what we stand to gain

The COVID-19 pandemic – and the resulting lockdowns – have had a major impact on research at institutions across the world, and universities in particular.

Research is one of the pillars of academia. Important discoveries are made, careers are built and the opportunities to train students are virtually unlimited. Research is a way of life for many, their findings being fundamental to progress in all scientific fields which supports a vast range of industries and communities.

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Pandemic exposes need for new university funding strategy

As governments around the world redirect capital spending towards mitigating the socio-economic impact of the pandemic and health sector requirements, universities are bracing themselves against the financial impacts on their own operations.

Jamil Salmi, tertiary education expert and former World Bank tertiary education coordinator, told University World News the most urgent task for African countries was to “design and implement a sustainable financing strategy” to support their higher education systems.

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A global scan of Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT)

Higher education institutions worldwide are grappling with measures to save the academic year in the midst of increasing and ongoing lockdowns in the Covid -19 pandemic. With students now being remote from the campus, academics are being forced to change their traditional teaching practice. The rapid switch to fully online learning is touted widely as the means of mitigating the impact of the virus with some academics demonstrating the creative potential of online learning in this difficult time.

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Here’s when South African students will return to university

The Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology has outlined its preliminary plans to save the 2020 academic year, while still balancing the safety of students.

Government placed all post-school education institutions on early recess from 15 March after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the coronavirus pandemic a national disaster.

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Keeping e-tutors at the cutting-edge of ODeL trends

The story: Unisa launches a new programme to provide e-tutors and academics from other universities with the necessary skills for advancing student learning within an open, distance and e-learning context.

What was said: "The programme will ensure that e-tutors have key competencies, which include knowledge and application of various pedagogies appropriate for the university’s context, as well as the capacity to choose and use appropriate technology to support students more effectively" - Prof Matshepo Matoane: Director of Instructional Support and Services.

Why it matters: An open approach implies that the courses can serve a national priority in terms of assisting SA universities to transition to the online space, thereby critically repositioning Unisa as the leading ODeL institution.

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Aspen donates 600 tablet devices worth R2.4m to university students

The University of Pretoria said on Wednesday its health sciences faculty had received a donation of 600 tablet devices worth R2.4 million from pharmaceutical company Aspen Pharmacare to facilitate access to online resources for students from poor backgrounds.

South African schools and universities have been closed since mid-March in an effort to avoid the spread of Covid-19 among students and staff, and remain so even after the government relaxed the rules of a nationwide lockdown on May 1.

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As colleges go remote, students revolt against the state of higher ed

One morning over my spring break, I woke to screaming from outside my college dorm room window: "We have to move out in two days!"

That absurdly short moving window, it turns out, was real. In the wake of the pandemic, most American colleges opted to move teaching online for the remainder of the semester, while hundreds of thousands of college students were ordered to leave their campus dorm rooms — forcing some back to their childhood bedrooms, others scrambling for alternative accommodation.

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Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University: Corona Virus Updates

Covid-19 Latest from SMU

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Business continuity in the face of COVID-19 dominates the agenda of the USAf Board of Directors’ meeting

The impact of the coronavirus on universities’ operations dominated the agenda of USAf’s Board of Directors’ meeting on Tuesday, 24 March. The meeting which was executed via video-conferencing to observe the social distancing regulations and the restrictions imposed on large-group gatherings, was attended by all universities, with the exception of two. At the invitation of the University of Pretoria’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tawana Kupe, the Directors were linked from a UP auditorium which hosted the UP VC, a delegate of the TUT VC, the USAf CEO, Professor Ahmed Bawa and his team of four officials.

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Emergency solutions are exacerbating the digital divide

India has come to a near standstill, but people are still keen to learn and teach. The restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have temporarily and abruptly closed down most of the higher education institutions in India, compelling them to (re)think how to use their existing platforms and find new and innovative solutions to continue with teaching and learning.

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Research universities’ multiple responses to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating effect on education worldwide. Schools and universities have been shut down, like everything else. Universities around the world have responded positively, intensifying research to find solutions, assisting their governments in developing ways to contain the pandemic, and finding other channels to deliver on their mandate.

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Student bodies say e-learning is unaffordable and elitist

The adoption of e-learning as an innovative means to continue teaching and learning during the national lockdowns affecting many African countries has been rejected by a number of student organisations, which argue it is unaffordable, impractical and elitist.

Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) spokesperson Allan G Mawaya said in a statement that the union’s position, after “consideration of the majority of students and their benefactors”, was “a total rejection” of the Zimbabwe government’s e-learning proposals.

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