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CUT declared as ‘medium risk’ after COVID-19 assessment

Staff Reporter

Central University of Technology (CUT) has been commended for the measures it put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 at its campuses, resulting in the Free State institution being elevated to the “medium risk” category with regards to the pandemic.

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Deputy Minister Buti Manamela visited the university’s main campus in Bloemfontein on Monday to assess its readiness for the phased re-opening of tertiary institutions under Level 2 of South Africa’s lockdown.

His inspection visit followed the listing by the higher education department of CUT as one of the country’s “high risk” institutions that needed more stringent measures to control the spread of the coronavirus.

“I’m quite happy that that status has changed, that we are now medium risk and that you are doing all that you can to make sure that situation improves,” Manamela was quoted as saying in a press statement.

The university, which has at least 12 000 contact students across its campuses, has to date confirmed losing four students and a staff member to the disease.

In Bloemfontein, the deputy minister toured the CUT student residence, the on-campus clinic as well as the Centre of Rapid Prototype Manufacturing to learn how the university was implementing COVID-19 regulations.

CUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Henk de Jager assured the deputy minister that the university was implementing strict safety regulations at all its campuses while it had also ensured online learning continued.

“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 we have also sponsored material to a community project,” de Jager said.

“But I believe our major challenge is the access to appropriate technology and internet connectivity for our students.

“. . . then we realised the major suffering incurred by some of our students and thus established the CUT COVID-19 Relief Fund focusing on external donations.

“We have acquired up to date about R600 000 and we have supported about 371 students who receive monthly support through this programme.”

Manamela was joined for the visit by Higher Health chief executive officer Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, who highlighted innovations such as the Health Check USSD which makes accessing campuses easier as well as their national 24-hour hotline which offers mental health support.

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