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As the start of the new academic year approaches, some tertiary institutions have already begun preparations and put measures in place to ensure the students’ studies are as seamless as possible.

And while Nelson Mandela University registrar Edgar de Koker acknowledged that it would be another challenging year, he said the institution had learnt important lessons from last year.

“The safety of our students and staff is our top priority and we have implemented measures to ensure that we provide a safe learning environment, where no student is left behind,” he said.

To limit the number of people on campus, NMU has introduced new ways of working, learning, teaching and living.

This included making many traditional face-to-face events virtual, he said.

Lectures are set to begin on March 15 using a blend of virtual and “mask-to-mask” learning and teaching to cater for students with different needs and resources.

Online registration for prospective students will run until April 1.

For applicants awaiting their final examination results, online registration will commence soon after the release of the final NSC/IEB/SACAI results on February 23.

In line with this, the official welcoming ceremony for firstyear students on March 6 will be held virtually, as well as the orientation programme from March 8-12.

On the issue of returning to campus, students and staff who can study and work remotely are continuing to do so.

Only students with an official e-permit will be able to return to any of the campuses and residences.

“All new and returning students, all staff and any visitors will be expected to comply with our compulsory Covid-19 processes and safety measures, including wearing a face mask, physical and social distancing and hand sanitising,” De Koker said.

“In addition, everyone will need to use the university’s own health screening tool.”

For applicants who wrote NSC, IEB and SACAI examinations last year, NMU will obtain the final examination results from the education department and will process applications for final admission.

These applicants do not need to submit their final examination results.

NMU will notify applicants of the outcome of their application from February 23 when the results have been released.

“One of the greatest lessons from last year is being adaptable in order to quickly react to changing circumstances,” De Koker said.

“The university is committed to providing a safe learning experience, where we will support our students and ensure their success this year.

“We eagerly await our new and returning students in March, whether that will be virtually or mask-to-mask.”

This article appeared in The Herald South Africa on 28 January 2021.

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Ms Zandile Mbabela
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