Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology: Honourable Buti Manamela, Sedibeng District Municipality Mayor: Cllr Busisiwe Modisakeng with VUT delegates.
The Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Mr Buti Manamela, accompanied by the CEO of Higher Health, Dr Ramneek and other colleagues from DHET and Higher Health, visited VUT on Monday 8 June 2020, to check the University’s state of readiness for the phased-in return of students.
Ensuring compliance to the National Protocols of COVID-19, VUT established an institutional COVID-19 Task Team in March 2020, ensuring that the institution aligns its preparations within all the regulations set by the Department of Health, Employment and Labour, DHET Higher Health.
The main purpose of the visit was to get insight into the plans that the University has put in place to welcome back the first identified group of students and their lecturers on campus during the week of Wednesday, 17-19 June 2020.
Upon arrival on campus, the delegation went through the institutional protocols of COVID-19, i.e. security checks at the main gate, sanitizing of hands, formal screening process as prescribed by the National Department of Health and watching a 7 minutes safety induction video.
Members of the Institutional COVID-19 Task Team were granted an opportunity to give an overview of the state of readiness in their different areas: Covid-19 Manager, Mr Roshan Madhoo reported on the control measures that are in place such as, risk assessment & register as prescribed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, permit system to control access to campus, prescribed PPE, case management and awareness through regular communication and awareness posters on campus. Mr Rajen Moodley, the Head of Security explained the processes prior to accessing the campus. Access to the campus will be done strictly through an application for a permit. Security will check the permit together with the access card before checking the temperature of a person. All details of the person accessing the campus will be recorded and available for Gauteng Health Department should the need arise. Security also ensures that Covid protocols are adhered to i.e. wearing of masks, sanitizing of hands and maintaining of social distances. When students arrive of campus, security will be deployed in high traffic zones to ensure that social distance norms are applied. Access to specific areas will be restricted. So far VUT has ensured a Covid free environment and we would like to ensure that it remains so.
Prof Van der Bank, Chairperson of the Task Team reported on the sanitizing of all the venues on the Vanderbijlpark campus, the VUT Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park (SGSTP) and Ekurhuleni campus by Scientology Volunteer Ministries and reported that the Upington campus used a private company for this purpose. Secunda will be serviced by VUT team that completed the training under Scientology Volunteer Ministries as soon as the ban on inter-provincial travelling has been uplifted. She also reported on the support of various stakeholders who provides the University with sanitizers, converting the foot and leather sewing machines through the help of the industry partner in order to produce face masks, while the partnership between WITS University and the VUT SGSTP produces face shields. “VUT, CUT, NWU, and UJ has recently signed an MOU to produce ventilators. The VUT SGSTP produced the first prototype on the 1st of May 2020 through 3D printing” she said.
Strict access of students to various areas of the campus will be put in place. Only those students identified with valid permits will be allowed to return to campus and residences. Two types of permits will be issued, i.e. access to campus and access to the residences. No one will be allowed to be where they are not supposed to be, and they will be subjected to all the institutional COVID-19 protocols that are in place.
Academically, all VUT students will be supported through blended learning, including the use of VUTELA on blackboard. Only those students identified and require access to laboratories will be allowed back on campus while the rest make use of online teaching and learning.
The Executive Mayor of Sedibeng, Cllr Busisiwe Modisakeng expressed her appreciation for the informative visit and co-operation of labour unions and SRC. “My wish is to see the existing relationship continue beyond COVID-19” she said.
In closing, the Deputy Minister, Mr Buti Manamela commended VUT for incorporating the labour unions and SRC in all stages of their preparations as they are recognised as key stakeholders representing the interest of staff and students. Prof Rensburg, VUT Administrator thanked the Deputy Minister for the visit and reiterated the fact that returning students will be notified on which days they will be allowed back to campus and they will always be expected to carry their access permits with them.
The visit was followed by a brief walkabout on campus to confirm what they have been briefed on during the discussions.