The government has said it appreciates efforts by the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) to curb the spread of Covid-19 and ensuring that the 2020 academic year is completed.
This was said by the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Innovation, Buti Manamela, during a visit to the institution on Tuesday.
Manamela visited CUT to monitor safety protocols in line with the phased reopening of the Post-School Education and Training system under national Level 2 lockdown.
He acknowledged the importance of visiting to truly identify challenges faced by the university. “I am quite happy that the status has changed, that you are now medium risk and that you are doing all that you can to make sure the situation improves even further.
“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 be positive and focus on achieving transformation goals,” said the deputy minister.
He was joined by the chief executive officer of higher health, Dr. Ramneek Ahluwalia, who highlighted innovations such as the Health Check USSD which make accessing campuses easier, and CUT’s 24-hour hotline offering mental health support.
CUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof. Henk de Jager took the deputy minister through all the safety regulations implemented on both the Bloemfontein and the Welkom Campus, as well as interventions to ensure that online learning continues.
“We availed R1 million to the Covid-19 Research and Innovation Grant for our research teams. We have donated sanitisers to our provincial government and material to a community project. However, I believe our major challenge is access to appropriate technology and internet connectivity for our students,” said De Jager.
“We realised the major suffering experienced by some of our students and thus established the CUT Covid-19 Relief Fund focusing on external donations. We have raised about R600 000 and supported about 370 students, who receive monthly support through this programme,” he indicated.
Manamela then took a tour of a student residence, the on-campus clinic, as well as the Centre of Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing to learn more about how CUT is implementing 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, is applauded. It makes sure that no student is left behind,” he added.