SA Journal of Education, Volume 43, Supplement 1, December 2023

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education institutions in South Africa: Resilience of academics

Raj Mestry


Academic staff of higher education institutions (HEI) experienced serious challenges during the lethal coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. To overcome the spread of this deadly pandemic, the South African government instituted stringent lockdown measures such as intermittent closure of universities. Apart from distance or online teaching and learning institutions, other HEIs were keen to maintain their core activities and conduct business as usual. To resume academic programmes, they advocated a transitioning from traditional face-to-face teaching to online teaching. For effective teaching and learning to be accomplished, academics were compelled to make paradigm shifts. They had to be digitally literate and technologically savvy. Academics were also confronted with challenges of poor students who experienced difficulty in procuring devices (iphones, ipads, laptops) and data, as well as securing access to Wi-Fi. Using Resilience Theory to frame the study, I explored the influence of COVID-19 on academics and their resilience to survive this deadly pandemic. Generic qualitative research within an interpretivist paradigm was employed to determine the perceptions and experiences of 13 academics from different universities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings reveal that the academics experienced serious emotional and psychological stress which were detrimental to their well-being. Although academics found difficulty in transitioning to online teaching, their resilience helped them cope with the extraordinary circumstances that evolved from COVID-19.

ORCiD iD of author:
Raj Mestry -

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