JAMEO CALVERT AND PRIDE MATHEBULA
On 23 May, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Blade Nzimande, announced that universities would open in phases from 1 June, allowing the return of 33% of students, including final year students, postgraduate students (who require laboratory work to complete their degrees) and students with online learning challenges to be prioritised. The University of Pretoria has allowed some students back into its residences, making it easier for students to undertake online learning.
In online learning, students encountered challenges due to network problems and inability to access online resources. Students reported that studying at home is more challenging because students must balance their schoolwork with chores at home. Some anonymous students expressed that they are unable to keep up with the work, which led to them being left behind. Some added that at home, there is no privacy for studying with little encouragement to study as students find themselves preoccupied with other activities. To combat such predicaments, UP has opened its residences for students under the aforementioned categories to access facilities.
“The University of Pretoria has allowed some students back into its residences, making it easier for students to undertake online learning.“
Theresho Seloma, a first year Bachelor of Education student, and residence occupant at House Tirisano, told PDBY that being back at the residence is good for him and, “it is exactly what I needed as the environment is a lot more conducive to studying and I have adjusted quite well to the new normal”. Seloma added that there are a lot of ‘new rules’, including no visitors, and a curfew to stay indoors from 8pm to 6am.
“Being back at res brought me peace and I am able to study as I could not study back at home and being back at res is what enabled me to pass all my modules for the first semester” said Lebogang Mokgakala, a first year education student and residence occupant at House Zinnia. According to Mokgakala “there is not much freedom like before, we can no longer go where we want to. Now it is all about going to the dining hall to fetch food.” She further explained to PDBY that “things have taken a different curve, I did not expect my first year, at university to turn out like this”. She explains that she was expecting to have fun and to gain life lessons around varsity, “instead I am now learning how to protect myself against [the] pandemic”.
Mokgakala also explained that “new rules have been introduced to us and I believe that these rules are there to protect us; I am of the opinion that if we were not faced [with] this horrific pandemic, the university would not have put all these annoying rules in place.” She added that she is “now used to the new rules as they have now become part of our everyday life at res”.
“…there are a lot of ‘new rules’, including no visitors, and a curfew to stay indoors from 8pm to 6am.“
Mokgakala also told PDBY that she was amongst many residence students on the Groenkloof Campus that received grocery assistance during the lockdown period from the office of Dr. Rakgadi Phatlane, Faculty Manager: Faculty of Education. “It takes a village to raise a child and I am grateful to Dr. Phatlane for providing us with the much-needed assistance as I really had no toiletries and the groceries and food she gave us, helped a lot.”
Louis Sethunya, a member of the House Tirirsano House Committee told PDBY that “being back at res brought back hope for academics and well-being, because I was starting to become overwhelmed by the pandemic back at home as there was little chances of doing assignments, but since we are back at res there is hope again”.
According to Sethunya, being back at the residence means that he now has unlimited access to the internet and therefore is able to do his assignments and tests without any disruptions and delays. In explaining how he welcomes the new rules, he added that as a House Committee member, they sometimes find it difficult to execute their duties because they have to manage other floors where there are no House Committee members. He further added that the activities that we can not finish in our term, we feel like we were not given enough to complete the things we wanted to do, we are confident that we could do more”. Sethunya added that he personally feels like he cannot wait till next year to finish what he started at his residence.