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The Board of Directors of Universities South Africa (USAf) has noted with grave concern, reports of 
reckless student behaviour on campuses since South Africa relaxed the national lockdown to Levels 2 and 1, respectively.
Noting that COVID-19 remains alive and active in this country, as evidenced by  over  1,000  new  cases  being  reported  daily,  nationally,  the  vice-chancellors  of  all  26  public universities  have  cautioned  students  at  their  institutions  to  keep  this  in  mind  in  their  day-to-day behaviour on campuses and in residences.
At the last ordinary (and virtual) sitting for 2020 on Tuesday, the USAf Board noted with utmost concern, reports of students mingling recklessly; throwing parties within residences and visiting night clubs with not much regard for the safety protocols that their institutions had put in place. 
In addition to the standards of behaviour adopted by all public universities at the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, institutions set additional safety protocols and communicated them widely, as they welcomed students back on campuses, recently.
Following  the  meeting  on  Tuesday,  fresh  reports  of  rising  numbers  of  COVID-19 infections  in students on the East London campuses of the University of Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape have heightened fears in the USAf Board, that students are not heeding the call to uphold the safety protocols widely communicated across the system. The two institutions have confirmed that on the 3rd, 10th and 17th October, some of their students attended parties which were hosted in clubs and taverns in the Quigney neighbourhood in East London. Some students have confirmed that there was non-compliance with Covid-19 health and safety protocols during the events, which were attended by as many as 300 patrons.
It is no surprise, therefore, that within a week of those incidents, Fort Hare recorded 33 cases, mostly among the Nursing Science students. Yesterday, that number increased by 26, this time including students  from  Law  and  Management  and  Commerce  faculties.  Furthermore,  additional other institutions  were  forced  to  activate  quarantine  facilities  when  students  developed symptoms  of COVID-19. The vice-chancellors of all 26 public universities take this in serious light.
“How do we prevent our students from turning universities into seed sites for a new wave of COVID-19 outbreaks?” Professor Ahmed Bawa, Chief Executive Officer and a Member of USAf’s Board, asked his peers on Tuesday.  The Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu cases have since confirmed a real threat of  new COVID-19 outbreaks starting in university residences. The USAf  Board expressed concern  that  students  headed  home  for  a  mid-term  break,  shortly,  could  transfer  the  virus  to unsuspecting family members in their own communities.
A social compact in development These reports emerge amidst a joint effort between USAf, the South African Association of Senior Student Professions (SASSAP) Higher Health and the South African Union of Students, to develop a social compact to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in institutions of higher education. The compact aims to advocate and reinforce behavioural protocols such as safe hygiene, wearing masks and social distancing that universities have championed since the pandemic broke out in South Africa in March. A draft of this compact will be circulated to all campuses in the near future. 
Since August, 2020, universities have been re-admitting controlled student numbers on campuses. While the initial attempt was to enable specific categories of students to catch up with learning, some universities have shifted to a 100%  return of  students, albeit  with serious safety concerns when social  distancing  cannot  be  guaranteed.  USAf  has  since  engaged  the  Department  of  Higher Education and Training on the matter, and further guidelines are awaited in this regard.
“Meanwhile,  scientists  have  been  predicting  a  second  wave  of  COVID-19  that  might  break  out, nationally, from February / March 2021,” Professor Bawa says, further emphasising that students’ reckless behaviour could see that wave advancing even much earlier.  Warning that second-wave outbreaks in parts of Europe had proven to be much worse than the initial outbreaks, according to scientific assessments, Professor Bawa said that “every single life lost to COVID-19 has been one life  too  many.    We  cannot  afford  to  lose  any  more  teaching  and  learning  days  to  student recklessness. Neither can we afford to sink South Africa into further loss of precious lives and into further deterioration of our already grim economy.”
Vice-Chancellors reached a consensus to work jointly as a sector in addressing this issue.

This statement was issued by USAF on 22 October 2020
Enquiries: Ms ‘Mateboho Green 072 807 4677

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057