Level 2 appeal as students return

Otago Polytechnic opened its doors again this week, while University of Otago courses remain online until the end of the semester.

As students make their way back to Dunedin, the university’s vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne asked for their help to prevent Covid-19 from “sneaking stealthily back into society”.

She encouraged students to stick to the Level 2 restrictions by not having large gatherings and observing social distancing.

At Otago Polytechnic, about 1100 students returned to campus on Monday.

This was about one third of students – the rest continued through online and/or distance learning.

Most were involved in programmes requiring physical teaching, such as laboratory, kitchen and studio work and workshops.

Polytechnic deputy chief executive officer Megan Gibbons said measures had been put in place to ensure the polytechnic adhered to the Government’s protocols.

They included a full bio-clean of campus, physical distancing requirements, signing in and out of classrooms and workshops and ensuring remote learning and teaching were still available.

Otago Polytechnic Students’ Association president Nathan Laurie said some students were excited to get back to polytechnic and have access to the facilities on campus.

Reaction to the lockdown had been a “mixed bag” and people had different experiences.

Some coped well, or even thrived, in lockdown, whereas others struggled to integrate their study routine into their home lives.

He praised Ms Gibbons for her support during the lockdown.

“During the whole time she has just been fantastic.

“She’s been doing a great job in ensuring that the communication is kept up with the students.”

Otago University Students’ Association president Jack Manning agreed students had mixed emotions about the lockdown.

“I think we’ve seen plenty of students doing tremendously well and really being incredibly resilient,” he said.

Some students had helped the community by joining the Student Volunteer Army, but there had certainly been some challenges.

“And quite a fair amount of hardship to some degree, but especially [for] some students.”

Financial hardship hit many students who lost their jobs.

Last month, the OUSA and the university launched a fund, Putea Tautoko, to offer financial support.

“It’s really there to help students with all sorts of different challenges.”

The university has also announced it will be increasing semester 1 results by five points, the equivalent of one grade.

Mr Manning said the move was first made at the University of Auckland and Otago students pushed for it too.

“This was certainly a direct result of students making their voices heard and really advocating for some sort of baseline academic consideration.”

University exams will start on June 3.

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