Managing higher education institutions in the context of COVID-19 stringency: Experiences of stakeholders at a rural South African university
Keywords:Rural universities, COVID-19, Education, Learning, Pandemic, Remote learning
The COVID-19 pandemic poses unparalleled challenges to education systems around the world, all of which have devastating effects. While these effects have been troubling in developing and developed countries, rural education systems in developing countries have particularly been most susceptible to collapse. The unique context of rural universities makes it difficult to implement approaches similar to those implemented in the developed world and/or more urban-based institutions. Underpinned by Von Bertalanffy’s Systems Theory, which argues that organisations are composed of systems that have goals to achieve, this paper thus sought to explore the coping mechanisms instituted at a rural South African university in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. It further sought to establish how the university has managed to cope with the challenges that are unique to rural universities as exacerbated by the onset of the pandemic. Underpinned by a post-positivist paradigm, the study employed a mixed methods approach through which data was collected using online questionnaires and interviews. The findings of the study revealed that although the institution had put some measures in place to ensure that the university is efficiently managed in the context of COVID-19 stringencies, university stakeholders are still faced with insurmountable challenges that range from campus safety, cancellation and postponement of examinations, as well as weakened research and international collaborations. Based on the findings of the study, it is recommended that South African institutions and the government need to invest more on safety infrastructural facilities that will ensure that rural university stakeholders are safe. Furthermore, there is a need for technical infrastructural facilities that enable the shift from conventional assessment, teaching and learning approaches to a more blended educational model.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Prof V.S. Mncube, Mr Bonginkosi Mutongoza, Mr Emmanuel Olawale
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