Disrupted agricultural colleges start reopening for some students

Strict measurements have been laid out by agri-institutions across South Africa some students who are returning. Photo: Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute.

Strict measurements have been laid out by agri-institutions across South Africa some students who are returning. Photo: Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute

Amidst elaborate covid-19 safety precautions and concerns about the effects of a disrupted academic year, agriculture students this week began returning to the campuses of colleges around the country.

Some agriculture training institutions are re-admitting students in phases to keep the numbers of students on campus low enough to allow for effective physical distancing. Hurriedly instituted safety precautions include self-isolation facilities and students at some colleges received a safety goody bag containing face masks on their arrival.

Students at the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute (EATI) returned to their campus earlier this week and were welcomed back by the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer.

Western Cape minister of agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer (right) indicates the markings to promote social distancing on the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute. Photo: Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute

On arrival, each student was given a covid-19 goody bag containing two cloth masks, hand sanitiser and a brochure entitled “Covid-19 toolkit”.

Addressing the students, Meyer said that the Western Cape Government is committed to continuing with the academic programme within the context of covid-19.

“I urge students to adhere to all the covid-19 safety measures. Our common goal is to ensure that you not only continue your studies in a safe environment, but that you also graduate at the end of this year,” he said.

EATI students will now be attending a weeklong winter school in preparation for the exams which commences towards the beginning of July 2020.

They will also have to quickly adjust and get acquainted the strict measurements laid out by the agri-institution.

As part of the measures students with high temperatures will not be allowed onto the campus and those in the hostel will be immediately placed under quarantine. Self-isolation facilities have also been made available should the need arise.

Students have received copies of the covid-19 protocols which have been put in place to protect them. They have also been provided with a screening tool which enables them to measure their risks daily.

Posters encouraging social distancing and the promotion of health measures are up on the walls lecture halls, dining areas and hostels. Pathways have also been marked to support social distancing.

Fort Cox College of Agriculture and Forestry college

Only 110 students will be returning to the Fort Cox College of Agriculture and Forestry college on Monday, 22 May, to resume their disrupted agricultural learning. The returning students are all second-year students focussed on either crop production, agribusiness, forestry, or animal production.

According to deputy principal of the college, Mulugheta Araia, only second-year students are rostered to return because their learning will come to an end at the end of July. Third year students will only finish at the end of the year. This gives the college the opportunity to practice social distancing more effectively.

“We sensed that it would be better to start with the second-year students, followed by the first-year students and finally those in their third year,” Araia says.

Students at the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute received a goody bag containing two face masks. Photo: Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute

Araia tells Food For Mzansi that the health and safety of their students and staff members are a high priority.

Strict health and safety regulations were communicated to the students at Fort Cox on Wednesday during a covid-19 safety induction session led by the college’s resident nurse.

Furthermore, instead of using just using lecture rooms, Fort Cox will now also make use of its hall facility to teach students. Arai says the have divided the student seating in line with the social distancing regulations.

Furthermore: “We’ve allocated a 30gig data bundle to all our students. This is to help alleviate the pressure on first- and second-year students who will be attending classes online,” Arai says.

Cedara College of Agriculture

At the Cedara College of Agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal, 40 third-year students resumed schooling on Wednesday.

Senior lecturer at the college, Johan van Veenendaal, says they decided to let third-year students return to allow them to complete the rest of their academic year within the next four weeks.

“In the process we are making sure that every student (first and second year) has access to working computers, data and that they know which websites to access for learning material.”

Once the third-year students complete their studies, the college’s 80 second-year students will be permitted to return. Van Veenendaal says unfortunately there is not enough space at the hostel to accommodate the first-year students at the same time. He, however, hopes by then the country will be moving to level one of the nation-wide lockdown.

Strict measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus have also been implemented at this renowned institution. Lecture rooms at the college have been carefully spaced out at exactly 1,5 metres, allowing enough space for 49 learners per lecture room. Each student has their own desk with their names on and they are responsible for disinfecting their desks regularly.

Van Veenendaal says: “We are very strict on wearing masks and social distancing. Also, every student has been equipped with a bottle of sanitizer that is refilled every day.”

Hostels at Cedara are all double rooms, but to avoid unnecessary contact the students have all been allocated individual rooms. Strict protocol is also observed at the hostel’s breakfast hall where regular temperature checks are done before meals.