In March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would enter a 21-day lockdown. This decision was made to slow down the spread of the virus and prepare the country’s health system for the pandemic.
While the lockdown lasted longer than 21 days, the impact of the lockdown continues to be experienced in tertiary education spaces. This is as many institutions moved to a blended style of learning which incorporated both in-person classes and online learning.
Professor Lis Lange, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching and Learning at the University of Cape Town, suggested that the pandemic accelerated processes that were already underway. This introduction of online learning has significant consequences on the redefinition of academic work.
Lange does concede that the pandemic also brought to the fore the brutality of poverty and the circumstances that many students live under in the county.
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Johannesburg added that distributing internet data bundles to students did not guarantee that students could learn.
He explained, “The devices that we gave to 28 000 students, with monthly data, did not guarantee students’ access to learning, simply because, depending on where you come from, the level of connectivity differs quite markedly.”
It's expected that the future will be a blend between technology and people. This is as technology is evolving and changing the current way of life. However, more needs to be done to ensure that people fully utilise the diverse spaces that we operate in.
Lange says higher education now needs critical leaders who position themselves strategically in a changing world to influence the necessary change.
“Higher education leaders need to understand that fear, doubt, and silence are sometimes necessary. They, of necessity, help us to contemplate before deciding on the next course of action” explained Lange.
Leaders are also needed to possess critical thinking skills and understand technology. Marwala explained that complete education requires individuals in the social sciences fields to understand the technology and those in technological disciplines to understand humanities.