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South Africa: Coronavirus - Some Varsities Shut Their Doors, Others Wait After Ramaphosa's Address

Nigeria Student Forum / Educational News / South Africa: Coronavirus - Some Varsities Shut Their Doors, Others Wait After Ramaphosa's Address

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Following President Cyril Ramaphosa's address to the nation on Sunday night about the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, four universities have decided to shut their doors, but Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and Stellenbosch University (SU) have decided not to follow suit just yet.

In a statement on Twitter, NMU said Ramaphosa's announcement banning gatherings of more than 100 people, only "applies to public gatherings and not to academic activities".

It said it would be business as usual at the university.

"All classes, tests, laboratory sessions, practicals and experiential learning activities will continue as normal. As the week of 16 March is the start of our second term, students are encouraged to make a special effort to attend all academic activities."

As a result, a petition has been started to compel the university to postpone classes and tests. The petition currently has over 6 000 signatures.

SU also announced their classes would go ahead as usual while stakeholders discuss the matter.

"Lectures will continue at SU during the period of discussions between the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, VCs of universities and Universities South Africa (USAf)."

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) are still deliberating their plan of action, saying this would be announced on Monday.

But other universities have decided to postpone their classes and graduation ceremonies following Ramaphosa's address. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) announced it would suspend contact classes and postpone graduation ceremonies effective from Monday, but staff will still report for duty.

On Monday morning, the University of Pretoria (UP) announced that it too would postpone its tests and assessments, but just for the day.

UP added it would be "finalising plans on contact activities, taking into account the measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa as consultation with the Minister of Higher Education begins".

A final decision would be announced later on Monday.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) suspended its academic programme "with immediate effect" on Monday morning.

"The UKZN academic programme is suspended (including tests) with immediate effect until further notice, pending further engagements on a sector-wide approach regarding contact classes," it said.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) and Wits University also suspended classes and both confirmed a case of Covid-19 at their institutions.

In a statement, UCT's vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said the university decided to break immediately from term one vacation and suspend classes.

"We were persuaded of the importance of this step as a precautionary, proactive measure to minimise the risk of spreading the coronavirus disease 2019," Phakeng said.

Wits said all contact classes, including tests, and graduation ceremonies would be postponed and urged students to stay at home and practice social distancing.

Earlier on Sunday, Wits also announced that a medical student who had been in isolation since Wednesday had tested positive for Covid-19 despite being asymptomatic.

Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster and instituted several measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa.

He also announced the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases had increased from 51 to 61.


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