Above: Stellenbosch University’s Rooiplein and library steps.

– Lia Snijman

Stellenbosch University (SU) has been planning for different scenarios as they prepare for students to return to their classes on 15 March 2021.

Martin Viljoen, spokesperson for SU, said SU is planning to either have a total return of students to their different campuses in 2021 or to adapt if a second wave of the pandemic arises.

A sectoral decision was made to start university classes on 15 March 2021. “Different factors have contributed to SU’s decision to begin with the 2021 academic year on 15 March 2021 for all undergraduate students (also first year students),” he said. Viljoen added that postgraduate students would probably start their academic year earlier.

Factors that influenced SU’s decision include a complementary (A4) exam that has been scheduled for January 2021 for some year modules and modules from the first semester of 2020. This is to support students that couldn’t successfully complete their first semester’s exams due to the sudden shift to online learning. These exams will take place from 18 January to 6 February 2021.

Another factor is Minister Blade Nzimande’s extension of the 2020 academic year until the end of February 2021. Matric results are only expected by 23 February 2021. “March is thus the earliest that first year students would be able to begin with the 2021 academic year.”

In terms of the welcoming period and Vensters, Viljoen has said that they are also preparing for different scenarios. They will possibly be adjusting the format of the events to allow for things such as social distancing while keeping “the unique character of these events”. Viljoen mentioned that there could, for example, be more than one welcoming event to keep the numbers per event smaller.

SU will soon be starting with its November/December assessment period during which some students will be completing online assessments and others will be at invigilated face-to-face assessments on Stellenbosch campus.

Professor Stan du Plessis, chair of the Institutional Committee for Business Continuity, reminded students that academic integrity is expect during online assessments as well. “The SUNLearn system logs the device and network points used during assessments. The University reserves the right to check these logs for discrepancies,” said Du Plessis.

“We are very close to the end of our 2020 academic year. I appeal to you all to take care of your health, to comply with health and safety protocols and to act responsibly. Please mask up for your own safety and for social solidarity. SU offers various types of support, including support for your mental health and emotional well-being,” said Du Plessis.