Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, has released the latest protocols from Higher Health for the 2020/21 examination period in the Post-Schooling Education and Training (PSET) sector.

The protocols will guide 26 universities, 50 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges and other post-schooling institutions on how to conduct invigilated examinations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nzimande on Monday said the current COVID-19 pandemic Level 1 allows for students and staff to return to campus, and this will lead to higher personal interaction, which requires continued vigilance and specific precautions to prevent cluster outbreaks.

“Higher Health has been developing programmes, systems and controls related to the pandemic through the establishment of guidelines, protocols, research and capacity building across our sector.

“These are grounded in the growing body of science and the latest epidemiological data,” Nzimande said.

Nzimande said while the PSET sector is encouraged by the reduced rate of infection across the country, the greater liberty in the movement of people represents an ever-present risk in the spike of cases.

During November and December 2020, or as soon as possible thereafter, Nzimande said students will be required to sit for invigilated exams (under supervision).

He said the new protocol focuses on a three-pronged approach to ensure safe exam processes and the protection of the lives of invigilators and students.

The approach focuses on:

  • Before the exam: Preparation of the exam venues, materials and training of invigilators.
  • During the exam: Maintaining safety in the exam venue.
  • After the exam: Ensuring safe management of exam materials.

“The Protocol on Invigilation of Tests and Examinations during COVID-19 within PSET institutions was developed by the PSET health and wellness agency, Higher Health, which has been assisting institutions in managing COVID-19 since the outbreak.

“Adherence to the control measures, as set out in the protocol, is a road map to the successful management of examinations.

“There are two overarching aspects of the approach to mitigate transmission risks: optimising the engineering and administrative controls such as ventilation, distancing in the exam venues, hand-hygiene, training of additional invigilators, timetable management and regular cleaning and health screening; and individual behaviour including the wearing of masks, distancing and using the HealthCheck self-assessment tool,” Nzimande explained.

The Minister stressed that at all times, students and staff should continue to use Higher Health’s HealthCheck, a free digital screening tool that is tailor-made for the higher education sector and acts as a daily health passport.

He said the mental wellbeing of students and staff remains a critical focal area during exams when anxiety and stress naturally increase, especially during this year when the academic calendar was affected by COVID-19.

The dedicated Higher Health mental health 24/7 toll-free crisis helpline to get help is 0800 36 36 36.

Over 13 000 staff trained to assist with screenings

Higher Health has trained over 13 000 frontline staff and 3 200 student volunteers to assist with screenings, education, referrals and other aspects of the daily risk-mitigation across campuses.

Other comprehensive guidelines that have been prepared and rolled out include the management of cluster outbreaks at educational institutions, and the launch of 10 fully furnished mobile clinic units to enhance health services and provide primary healthcare at underserved TVET, Community Education and Training (CET) colleges and university campuses.

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