Belgium Campus COVID-19 Communication (12)
Dear: Students and Parents,
We are in this all together, we will leave nobody behind
The COVID-19 Corona virus is still a major game changer in our personal and professional lives. We see that people and nations all over the world are affected. In South Africa we have now gone from the extremely strict lockdown level 5 to level 4. Let us examine what that means for both the BC ITversity and you.
It is vitally important that you keep in touch and communicate with us: help us, help you, and nobody will be left behind. Also, we are in this for the long haul. We do not know when we will be at the peak of the epidemic, some even think that we will reach the infection peak as late as September. So it is very well possible that we cannot open our campuses again before we get the all clear after the curve has flattened out.
BC ITversity was pro-active in suspending academic activities on March 16,2020, to prepare for future operations. On April 30, 2020, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation published a statement on the measures to be taken in this new situation. We believe that the Campus is ready. The most important issues addressed are the following.
From the moment the President declared the COVID-19 pandemic to be a national disaster on Sunday 15 March, the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, in conjunction with institutions suspended academic activity. The authorities want to lower the infection curve and make sure that lives are saved. At the same time they wish to save the academic year
During the Level 4 lockdown period all higher education institutions are prohibited to organise regular, campus based academic activities. At the same time measures must be taken to make sure that the students will not lose this academic year, and that they can continue their study programme by other means and methods than class bound education. This, as you know, includes remote education, specifically by means of digital teaching, learning and support platforms.
Furthermore, while the campus is closed to the students, preparations for the return of the students in a later phase must be undertaken. This includes biosafety protocols, equipment and tools to ensure the physical safety of the people on campus, such as necessary measures to enable social distancing, deep cleaning of the facilities, availability of hand sanitisers, and such like.
In the meantime, the academic year 2020 is being reorganised in order for the students to complete their academic requirements, possibly extending into 2021, depending on the evolution of the pandemic. Also, institutions should try to find extra means to help students to participate in this new form of teaching and learning, by partnering with corporations to obtain internet connection, looking at the availability of digital platforms and the necessary hardware, such as laptops etc.
What this means for BC ITversity, the institution
Campus Biosafety and Organisation
After shutting down our campuses on March 16, substantial effort has been made in coping with the necessary adjustments, such as changing from classroom-based education to remote teaching and learning. This necessitated new investments being made to ensure that the transition could be executed. Also, the facilities on the campuses were completely deep-cleaned, protocols for social distancing and physical security were put in place and the necessary materials were acquired, such as hand sanitisers, mouth masks, information boards, etc.
The second quarter of the academic year, which runs to June 12, will be fully online. We have prepared study accommodation on campus for those students that do not have adequate facilities at home, but the latest statement from the ministry of higher education unfortunately prohibits us to open them even partially. We are hopeful though that we are able to organise the exams of 22 June on campus.
According to the statement the institutions of higher education should use the month of May to prepare for re-opening. BC ITversity already has done everything to reopen all our facilities, we are now waiting for the go-ahead from the authorities. But in the meanwhile, we must be patient.
From the 11th of May a restricted number of academic and other staff will be present again on campus.
Student needs regarding remote education
We also realise that a number of students are facing problems such as the lack of having an adequate internet connection, data, PC or Laptop. BC ITversity has started a number of activities in cooperation with other partners and stakeholders to find solutions for this. Here is a short overview.
As a private not-for-profit educational institution, BC ITversity is doing everything we can to make a meaningful contribution to solving this problem. We have reached out to government, network providers and businesses to zero-rate our online platform and to provide our students in need with devices. The following actions have been taken:
Application by BC ITversity for whitelisting our educational online platform with Vodacom on March 18, 2020, including follow-up on March 31.
The South African Private Education (SAPHE) organisation, of which BC ITversity is a member, has sent letters to the DHET and telecom providers (Telkom, MTN, Vodacom and Cell C) on April 8, 2020, requesting their support for zero-rating, including private institutions.
SAPHE addressed the Competition Commission on April 16, 2020, for access to reduced cost or zero-rated data as per the Government Gazette issued on March 26, 2020.
The DHET started negotiations with Mobile Network Operators for zero-rated data on April 20, 2020.
Application by BC ITversity for daily 10GB + 20GB on behalf of our students on April 24, 2020.
SAPHE and Universities of South Africa (USAf) has a longstanding relationship and in a meeting during the week of April 20, 2020, the parties agreed to work together and SAPHE was requested to put together a working paper on how they can work better with USAf.
On April 23 APPETD (Association of Private Providers of Education, Training and Development) informed us that the Minister would like to have engagements with APPETD as soon as possible, to discuss measures that private providers are putting in place as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. BC ITversity submitted our information on April 23, 2020.
BE ITversity is also working hand in glove with APPETD (Association of Private Providers of Education, Training and Development) who has been requested by the advisors to the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, to compile a document of concerns and recommendations for the private education and training sector to ensure that training continues in the COVID-19 lockdown and submit our comments by April 28, which was done.
BC ITversity is also setting up a system whereby students will be lent a laptop for the duration of this crisis. You will be informed how to apply later.
The academic year will be extended, so that everybody will have the chance to complete their study programme in the course of this academic year, so you will not ‘lose a year’.
What it means for the student
Empower yourself through information: inform yourself and reply to our questions and surveys
Please follow the information and the instructions that will be issued by BC ITversity. It is vitally important that you know what is going on, and at the same time it is equally important for us to know how you are doing and what your needs and requirements are.
You will be invited to complete a questionnaire. The survey will help us understand two issues: how your on-line learning is going, and secondly, what obstacles you are experiencing. We will be asking about your leaning processes and the equipment or other problems you may encounter. BC ITversity needs that information to tweak and improve the programmes, methodology and tools used. We can also be made aware of certain problems students encounter that we are not aware of and that we can subsequently attempt to remedy. We are continuously working to improve the system and your learning experience.
Practical arrangements for on-campus visits to collect personal belongings
Some students still have some personal belongings in their rooms on campus. They will want to come and collect them.
From next week onwards they can make an appointment via the secretariat for a time slot during which they can come to the campus. Because of the mandatory social distancing practices it is necessary to work with these appointments and time-slots.
These students will be asked beforehand to complete a form with regard to first risk screening. On their arrival there will be a second risk screening.
Please, we ask you to adhere to these safety and health security protocols, so that our staff and your fellow students are not put in any further danger.
Belgium Campus is very much aware of the difficult conditions that you and we all are experiencing. Corona Covid-19 has grown into a true and vicious worldwide pandemic, and we realise that this is a very serious matter indeed. We therefore support the policies of the government and the rules and regulations of the lockdown level we are in.
We are all in this together, let us therefore work together to minimise the spread of this obnoxious virus. You can make the difference and by doing the right thing we can ensure that nobody is left behind.
Belgium Campus iTversity Management