STUDENTS at institutions of higher learning in Zimbabwe will have to wait longer before they set foot on campus, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira told our sister paper, Sunday News yesterday that the June 1 date was only set to allow universities and colleges to start preparations for reopening.
Prof Murwira said students would only be allowed on campus once all necessary requirements had been met and the last of the quarantined returnees have left.
Government recently announced that universities would reopen on June 1, starting with final year students as part of the phased reopening of tertiary institutions.
“Universities are rolling out the programme of reopening. It is not like we set the date saying as from June 1 things will be happening this way,” said Prof Murwira.
“It is a gradual programme of opening because as you know, for example, Lupane State University is still being used as a quarantine centre. There is a day that the last quarantined person will leave. It is after that day that the university will then be able to have the presence of final year students.
“Otherwise, we are having blended learning. Blended learning is using online learning as well as face-to-face. When it comes to face-to-face our first priority will be the final year students.”
He said June 1 was the date that universities would start implementing the blended learning programme.
“We have measured the state of preparedness of our universities for e-learning purposes and they are prepared. They started preparing from as early as February before any announcement was made because we knew where Covid-19 was going,” he said.
Prof Murwira said Government has realised that the biggest hurdle to online learning is the unaffordability of data, hence they have entered into negotiations with telecommunications companies.
Government has managed to get a concession that e-learning services would be free for students while data prices would be reduced.
“We talked to telecom companies and I’m happy to report that Liquid Telecom, Econet and TelOne have responded. Websites will be like toll free lines.”
Prof Murwira said Government has a constitutional obligation to promote access to higher and tertiary education.
“This is basically the translation of the policy pronouncement by the President. This will be done in a gradual manner, it is not going to be abrupt.”
Meanwhile, one of the country’s institutions of higher learning, Midlands State University (MSU) will start welcoming back final year students at its various campuses from June 22.
In a letter, MSU’s registrar Mr Tinashe Zishiri announced the terms under which students will be welcome back, with students that had paid their accommodation fees prior to the lockdown, exempted from doing so again while those that had not paid are required to pay $800.
Meals at the campuses will remain at pre-lockdown levels, while strict health regulations would have to be observed. Orientation of first year students for the August-December 2020 semester is set to commence on August 31.