We started off 2020 at full steam with the usual events to welcome new students and then less than three months later we were frantically making travel arrangements to ensure all our students were able to reach their homes before lockdown was implemented. Simultaneously we were gathering information on the pandemic to educate staff and students as much as possible.
For the month that there was absolutely no movement on campus, Hoedspruit Pick n Pay delivered groceries to the College gate, with our operations and hospitality managers Michael Gardiner and Hazel Timm dropping food off at the individual staff houses. Lesley Greyling, our HR Manager tirelessly kept staff and students updated regarding COVID-19 regulations, and continues to do so.
A COVID task team was also duly formed to prepare the college for an inspection by the Department of Health, before staff and students were authorised to return. Many hours of effort went into the modification of learning material and assessment instruments to allow students who were in the position to study online, to continue with their programmes. A sincere thank you to Marion Bourn who took on the enormous task of formatting and uploading learning material onto two different platforms. It was a huge learning curve for all the lecturers and students to learn how to access an online programme and complete tests with an online invigilator. In the meantime, we also worked hard on the development of learning material for the new three-year Diploma, led by Dr Yolanda Pretorius. This blended learning programme will be offered for the first time in 2022, essentially replacing the last Advanced Certificate in Nature Conservation being run in 2021.
The South African students started returning in July and had to get used to a completely different experience on campus. No longer being able to share rooms, students (and staff) also had to adhere to social distancing measures in the dining room, classrooms and common areas. It has become commonplace to sanitise hands and surfaces countless times a day, and to see markers on the floor that indicate distances that must be kept.
“Despite the personal, social and economic hardships everybody has endured this year, I am grateful for my team who remain cheerful and happy to come to work. We have celebrated special occasions together (Fortunate Mathonsi’s graduation, the arrival of our two interns Ronald Mathabula and Rirhandzu Ngomana and Freddy Nukeri Best Gospel Artist award – yes we have a star in the making) and we look forward to facing the challenges and opportunities that 2021 will bring,” said Anelle Rautenbach who heads up the unit.