– Lia Snijman. Above: Screening occurs at all Elsenburg’s entrances.

On 18 June 2020 senior students returned to the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute (EATI).

They were welcomed by the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer. “The health and safety of our students and staff are my first priority,” he said in the Department’s statement. “I am thankful to the staff for all the hard work which went into preparing the campus for the return of our students.”

Students received copies of the Covid-19 protocols that had been put in place to keep them healthy. Health measures are shown on posters throughout their public spaces. Pathways have been marked to help social distancing.

Students have also been given a screening tool which enables them to measure their risks daily. 

Elsenburg's entrances and exits are clearly marked to encourage social distancing.

Elsenburg’s entrances and exits are clearly marked to encourage social distancing.

Students received Covid-19 goodie bags.

Students received Covid-19 goodie bags.

 If they have a high temperature, they will not be allowed onto campus and those that live in the hostels will immediately be quarantined. Self-isolation facilities are available if need be.

Upon arrival, each student was given a Covid-19 “goody bag”, that contains two cloth masks, hand sanitiser and a brochure entitled, “Covid-19 toolkit”.

They will be having classes for a week to prepare for their exams that start at the beginning of July 2020.

 Professor Stan du Plessis, chair of the Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) at Stellenbosch University, sent students an email on 15 June.

He explained who SU’s 33% of returning students, the amount allowed under level 3 restrictions, will be.

“Faculties have prioritised students who should return during the first phase: those who still need to do compulsory academic work on campus in order to graduate in 2020, students who need to complete practical work in campus laboratories or prescribed clinical work, or need access to specialised software or research materials available on campus only, students who must comply with requirements for on-campus work set by professional bodies and postgraduate students who require access to laboratories or technical equipment. These students will receive individualised invitations to return to campus as of next week,” he said.

“It should be noted that the directions from the [Department of Higher Education and Training], Department of Co-operative Governance and the Department of Employment and Labour for our campus facilities are quite substantial. It will take some time to prepare venues and put measures in place to facilitate physical distancing for returning students and staff. As we take the safety of our students and staff seriously, we need time to ensure that all these requirements are properly implemented in campus facilities before students may return.”

As the students that were elected by the university to return fell under the 33%, they had some open spaces and allowed students to send written motivations if they have extreme difficulties in their home learning environments.

Students received personalised emails inviting them back to campus and only upon completing a Code of Conduct form are they issued a permit to travel.

“It is expected that the indicated selection of postgraduate students may be able to resume on-campus work from 1 July 2020, and the selected undergraduate students to start academic activities on our campuses from the start of the second semester on 27 July 2020,” said Du Plessis.

“Students will be required to do a daily self-check before leaving their place of residence in the morning and shall be requested to disclose the outcome of their self-check before entering SU campus facilities. Higher Health has developed a mobile tool – HealthCheck – as a daily health screening and monitoring tool that will be used as SU’s screening tool,” he explained.

Students that study on the Tygerberg campus will receive their invitations and instructions via the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“Residence students who returned home before the March/April recess, will all receive a rebate on their residence fees as of 26 March 2020 midnight (the start of the national lockdown) and their residence accounts will only be reactivated on the required date of their return to residence. All residence cancellations that were made since 26 March 2020 will also be backdated to 26 March 2020 for these students to qualify for the rebate,” said Du Plessis.