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Mental health greatest concern for locked-down UCT students


University advised to consider ‘peer-buddy systems’ to identify and help struggling students

Nearly three-quarters of participants In a survey of 3,800 University of Cape Town students cited mental ill-health such as anxiety and depression as their greatest challenge during the lockdown brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The survey, by UCT’s Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching, quizzed respondents in early July about their experiences of remote learning after classes migrated online from April. 

Most students who responded to the survey reported feeling disconnected from their peers and lecturers in the online environment. UCT was one of the first universities in South Africa to lock down. It will continue with online learning until the end of the year.

The next greatest worries reported by students were family responsibilities and the lack of quiet spaces in which to study. Access to devices with which to follow online content was only an issue for 10 per cent of respondents; the majority of students said they had sufficient data for their course work.

In a note accompanying the results of the survey, CILT drew up several suggestions for lecturers to alleviate the identified problems. These include creating a “peer-buddy system” that allows students to support and check in on each other to ensure they are coping. 

Lecturers should also consider simplifying assignments and giving practice runs for new assessment methods to help the “surprisingly large” number of students who reported not understanding online assessment instructions, the centre added.