Adaptation of Student Support Services Considering Covid‑19: Adjustments, Impact, and Future Implications
Keywords:adjustments, Covid‑19, disability support practitioners, hybrid space, student support, South Africa, virtual service offering
The global pandemic caused by Covid‑19 has impacted every facet of our lives and challenged service delivery to students within Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The Centre for Student Counselling and Development (CSCD) at Stellenbosch University (SU), South Africa, is situated within the Division of Student Affairs (DSAf) and the centre’s reflective practitioners had to respond to the challenge of altering services to ensure continuous support to the SU community. The CSCD aims to provide the SU community with psychological, developmental and support services, with the focus on critical engagement, advocacy, personal growth, and optimising graduate potential. The CSCD has been functioning virtually since mid-March 2020. Each of the Centre’s five units had to respond to both the challenges and opportunities to adhere to social distancing and to accommodate students who did not have access to online devices. All support sessions – whether it be academic, social justice, career, social work, psychotherapy, crisis management, with individuals or with groups – had to be done virtually or via telephone. This depended on a student’s choice and practical reality in terms of space, privacy, and connectivity. This article aims to firstly share the risks and opportunities of rapidly shifting to an online supportive environment, as well as how each unit within the centre had to adjust its functioning to ensure minimum impact on student relationships and interactions. It secondly aims to portray the implications the rapid shift had on the centre’s practitioners and the lessons learned during the process. Sharing these lessons might empower other HEIs in Africa too. Lastly, considering the imperative shift to online functioning caused by the Covid‑19 pandemic, this article concludes with a discussion on the implications for the future functioning of the CSCD.
Copyright (c) 2021 Munita Dunn-Coetzee, Elmien Sinclair, Marcia Lyner-Cleophas, Jaco Brink, Marquard Timmey, Charl Davids
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