Govt working to procure laptops for NSFAS students - Nzimande
Nzimande said government was finalising the process of verifying which NSFAS students required the devices. He said NSFAS students at TVET colleges would also receive laptops.
JOHANNESBURG - Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande on Tuesday said that his department had for the past two weeks, been engaging “tirelessly” with National Treasury on the procurement of learning devices, particularly laptops, for students funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
Nzimande said that government was finalising the process of verifying which NSFAS students required the devices. He said NSFAS students at TVET colleges would also receive laptops.
“We are also finalising the process of verifying which NSFAS students already have acquired devices in order to avoid mistakenly issuing some students with more than one device per student.
“We urge for patience from parents, staff, and students. We will be commencing with the central procurement of these devices, particularly laptops, through an open tender system given the nature and the value of the procurement,” he said.
Nzimande was speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria on the state of readiness for the phased return of students at universities and TVET colleges in the country.
He also said that he was in the process of appointing a NSFAS board after lashing out at the Democratic Alliance (DA) for being “reckless” after the party claimed last week that NSFAS wanted to write off debt racked up by beneficiaries who could afford to repay their loans.
Nzimande dismissed that as baseless and condemned the party for being irresponsible.
In May, Nzimande also announced that students funded by NSFAS and the Funza Lushaka bursary would receive 10 GB daytime and 20 GB night-time data for three months subsidised by government.
This was meant to begin from 1 June till the end of August.
RETURN IN PHASES
At the same time, Nzimande urged all higher education institutions to ensure that they followed the national guidelines when deciding on the return of students, especially at student residences.
He said that students who stayed at private rented accommodation close to campuses could also return, provided that physical distancing arrangements were also in place.
“I would like to urge all institutions to ensure that they follow the national guidelines when deciding on the return of students to residences in line with numbers that can be accommodated to enable physical distancing.
“In terms of the phase-in plans for level 3, the maximum admissible percentage of students per residence identified is 33%. All health and safety protocols must be in place,” he said.
At the last media briefing on the phased return of students, Nzimande announced that about a third of university students would be allowed to return to campuses under level 3 of the national lockdown.
These included students that had already returned to campuses during level 4 lockdown, students in their final year, and students who required access to laboratories, technical equipment, data connectivity, and access to residence and private accommodation.
The minister said that a further 33% of students would be allowed to return to campuses under level 2 of the lockdown, while 100% would be permitted under level 1.
STUDENTS, STAFF TO UNDERGO DAILY SCREENING, MONITORING
Nzimande also said that all students and staff, approximately two million people, would be required to register for the HealthCheck app and use it every day to assess their own level of risk prior to entering campuses.
HealthCheck is an initiative launched by Higher Health as a daily screening and monitoring tool for the higher education sector.
Nzimande said that the tool is available on various platforms including USSD, WhatsApp, and online.
“HealthCheck is secured to use by students and staff entering our campuses daily to self-check their body temperature and will link such data to the tracking system of the Department of Health,” Nzimande said.
“Based on the answers entered on the platform, the person receives a message with the low, moderate, and high-level risk reading. If the risk is low, the individual will receive clearance valid for 24 hours,” he added.
He said the higher education sector was guided by the National Coronavirus Command Council on curbing the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
WATCH: Nzimande briefs media on COVID-19 measures at tertiary institutions