Dear staff and students
We find ourselves in difficult and unprecedented times, where each day’s news cycles bring morehead-spinning and disturbing headlines.
President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announced that there would be a national lockdown for 21 days, beginning 26 March. The extensive and necessary measures announced are critical to “flatten the curve” and ensure that South Africa is positioned to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has had a wide-reaching impact on individuals, businesses and communities. It has already devastated economies, infected hundreds of thousands and claimed the lives of many. As of date, the number of cases in South Africa has reached 1,462. While this is considerably lower than many other countries, it remains imperative that we act early.
As we all continue to navigate through these unique and evolving challenges, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has taken some necessary steps to ensure that the transition to working remotely is as seamless as possible. I must stress that this must be work as usual. We have instated measures such as weekly online meetings for staff through platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, while all our modules are active on Blackboard. Further measures are being taken to enhance digital access to enable staff and students for online teaching and learning in the second term. Supervision for postgraduate students and postdoctoral research fellows should also continue using electronic platforms. We are preparing to be fully online by April 20 when the second term begins.
As a university leading the charge in the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), this is the future world of work which we should embrace. In this regard, I express my sincere gratitude to our staff members who, even under these trying times, continue to fulfill their daily duties to make sure that our University operates effectively and efficiently.
Prior to the lockdown, UJ had already begun implementing blended modules which combined online learning with traditional classroom learning. While this does not mark a departure from formal classroom learning, it does relook at the current packaging of knowledge. We understand the challenges this presents, given South Africa’s fraught socioeconomic context. In this regard, we are engaging with telecommunicationcompanies to provide you with access to data and access to the UJ website for free (“zero-rated”). We will share details on this as the process unfolds.
Amid these challenges, it is important for us all to band together to create an exceptional online learning experience, on par with the standards we have fostered as a university. Our staff are the key to achieving this. While the world may seem darker now than it did just a few weeks ago, we must continue to focus on our passion – educating our students. We live in a country where many are not afforded this opportunity and as such, we must ensure that those who do are given the best support possible.
To ensure that this happens, the University has amended the academic calendar as follows:
- The academic programme for the first semester will be offered via online platforms. This will apply for the full semester. If the lockdown is lifted on 16 April 2020 as planned, students will be allowed to enter the campuses to complete their first semester via online mode of delivery.
- During the 21–day national lockdown, UJ will continue to lay the foundations to offer its academic programme via online mode of delivery.
- UJ will use the period from 14 to 17 April 2020 to offer an online learning orientation programme.
- Students will commence with online learning on 20 April 2020.
- To ensure the successful completion of the academic year and to provide maximum learning opportunities, the academic calendar is being further restructured. Details regarding assessment periods and other important elements will be communicated in due course.
The University leadership will continue to monitor the situation,and any decision may be reviewed, as required. We appeal to all to practice the recommended precautionary measures, such as hygiene and social distancing, all the time.
I wish you all the best in the coming days and believe that our concerted efforts to work differently in these troubled times will bear fruit. Just as the hardship we have collectively experienced in the last few weeks has connected us, so too will our response.
Should any of you experience difficulties, please use the National Hotline of 0800029999 or WhatsApp line 0600 123456 or go the following link for more information:
Only information issued via the University’s official communication platforms is legitimate. This information may be verified by visiting: https://www.uj.ac.za/newandevents/Pages/Update-on-UJ-COVID-19-response.aspx
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg