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A full COVID-19 screening, visits to some of the residences and evidence of the suite of health and safety protocols firmly in place at Nelson Mandela University was enough to satisfy Higher Education and Training, Science and Innovation, Deputy Minister, Mr Buti Manamela, during his visit to campus yesterday (04 August 2020).

The Deputy Minister, who was in Port Elizabeth as part of an oversight visit to some Eastern Cape universities and colleges this week, said he was pleased with what he had seen at the institutions visited thus far.

Addressing members of Mandela University management, student leaders, union representatives and other stakeholders at the North Campus Conference Centre, the Deputy Minister spoke on some of the challenges faced in the higher education sector, particularly against the backdrop of COVID-19.

While he was pleased with the health and safety protocols, as well as the coordinated and collaborative manner in which Mandela University has implemented its COVID-19 strategy. Mr Manamela was particularly impressed with the support that students were receiving from the institution.

“I’m quite content with what I’ve seen. The level of readiness and the lengths to which the University has gone to ensure that personal protective equipment (PPE) is in place, the work done to ensure social distancing, screening, testing, isolation and the medical facilities on campus,” he said.

“More importantly, [I’m impressed with] the support that students have been getting, especially those who could not return as only 33% are allowed to return to campus. We believe that these efforts really go a long way in trying to curb the spread of the virus on campus.”

The Deputy Minister, who had also visited the University of Fort Hare, Buffalo City College and Port Elizabeth College, said he now believed that campuses have become safe hubs for students in this time.

Since the emergence of the pandemic in South Africa, Mandela University, through its Coronavirus Task Team (CTT), has been actively monitoring developments around the pandemic, and implementing safety measures for the safe continuation of the academic programme and operations on campus.  The CTT comprises various representatives from across the University’s learning and teaching and operational support divisions, including union and student leaders.

Through the work of this task team, staff and students identified among the 33% required on campus have returned to a safe environment, with the necessary on-campus support readily available. A suite of support measures is also available to those staff and students working and learning remotely.

Upon arrival on campus, Mr Manamela experienced a full COVID-19 screening at the screening station on North Campus.  From there, he visited the Charlotte Maxeke residence, where 27 of the 141 beds are presently occupied by students.

Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sibongile Muthwa, shared the work that had been done at the University as part of its COVID-19 preparedness strategy. 

“We already have 29% of our students back and we have prepared all our residences and made them safe.  We have also prepared the classroom and laboratory spaces to ensure physical distancing and equipped them with sanitising mechanisms.  We have a very robust education and awareness campaign driven by our student leaders and are fortunate that most students are abiding by the rules and regulations in place,” she said.

To date, about 29.5% of the University’s student population of about 28 000 has returned to campus.  In total, about 7 800 students were identified and notified to return, which is within the 33% restriction of numbers, as per the Lockdown Level 3 regulations.

The notification to return to campus is accompanied by a set of COVID-19 related conditions that students need to adhere to, upon their return, as part of the suite of safety measures such as wearing masks. Of the notified students, about 5 700 have confirmed their return and accepted the conditions.

A total of 3 219 students have returned to both the on-campus (1 274) and accredited off-campus (1 945) residences.  In addition, about 7.2% of the University’s total staff complement of about 3 000 have returned to campus, with 5.1% being the academic staff.

A Return to Campus guide is available in print and electronic format to staff and students, with relevant information and protocols relating to the return to campus, such as steps to follow when coming back to campus and convenient links to the necessary COVID-19 applicable resources. This, and other key educational and awareness resources, are housed on the University’s dedicated coronavirus website.

As we approach the peak in COVID-19 infections nationally, more people are being infected and affected by the pandemic.  Mandela University staff and students have also been affected, unfortunately having lost three staff members to the virus.  As at 03 August 2020, the cumulative number of positive COVID-19 staff cases stood at 72, with 58 recoveries, which leaves 11 active cases.  For students, the cumulative number of positive COVID-19 student cases stood at 10, with 7 recoveries, leaving 3 active cases.

Staff and student health services give ongoing support to all those who have tested positive.  Psychosocial support is also made available to staff and students affected during this extraordinary pandemic, with a suite of support measures to address anxiety and other wellness stressors.

On a broader societal level, and in line with the University’s resolve of being in the service of society, the institution has been pooling its intellectual and other resources to contribute to the provincial and Metro-wide efforts against the pandemic through the COVID-19 Coordinating Committee (CCC).

Mandela University’s contribution includes the 3D printing and distribution of face shields to medical facilities across the province; development of critical healthcare equipment, such as intubators and ventilators, distributed to hospitals in the Metro; sanitiser production and distribution to those in need, as well as food relief to poor families in the communities surrounding its Port Elizabeth and George campuses.

Download the Vice-Chancellor's presentation from this page.

Watch a short video on safety measures that have been implemented on the University's campuses

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777

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