In his visit to the Central University of Technology (CUT) in the Free State, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Buti Manamela said that he appreciates the university’s efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 and ensuring that the 2020 academic year is completed.
Manamela visited the university on September 1 2020 to monitor safety protocols in line with the phased reopening of the Post-School Education and Training system under Level 2. He said that he realised the importance of visiting CUT to truly identify the challenges faced by the university.
“I’m quite happy that that status has changed, that we are now medium risk and that you are doing all that you can to make sure that that situation improves. I also want to throw back the challenge to the student leadership — that we also rely on them to become champions of transformation in institutions of learning, and that protests do not have to be negative — they can actually be positive and contribute, and focus on achieving transformation goals,” said Manamela.
He was joined by the Chief Executive Officer of Higher Health SA, Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, who highlighted innovations such as the Health Check USSD, which makes accessing campuses easier, as well as their national 24-hour hotline which offers mental health support.
CUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Henk de Jager, took the deputy minister through all the safety regulations implemented on both the Bloemfontein and the Welkom campuses, as well as their interventions to ensure that online learning continued.
“We availed R1-million to the Covid-19 Research and Innovation Grant for our research teams, we’ve donated sanitizers to our provincial government and we’ve also sponsored material to a community project. But I believe our major challenge is the access to appropriate technology and internet connectivity for our students,” said De Jager.
“But then we realised the major suffering incurred by some of our students and established the CUT Covid-19 Relief Fund, focused on external donations. We’ve acquired up to date about R600 000, and we’ve supported about 371 students, who receive monthly support through this programme.”
Manamela then took a tour of a student residence, the on-campus clinic as well as the Centre of Rapid Prototype Manufacturing to learn more about how CUT is implementing the Covid-19 regulations.
“The work that the institution has done in terms of giving students devices, and allowing those who have no access to the internet at home to come back to campus, I think that is applaudable in also making sure that no student is left behind,” concluded Manamela.