Dear UJ Community
Today marks five days since the start of our second term on Monday, 20 April 2020. The fact that the academic programme is continuing serves as a testimony to the commitment of the UJ community to the successful completion of the 2020 academic programme.
This does not by any means suggest that we are oblivious to the challenges that we have had to navigate, and those that remain, as we shift to the online delivery of the academic programme. We are deeply concerned that many of our students face difficulties with access to devices and data. The University has worked around the clock to see that this is resolved. I am pleased to announce that access to data has been temporarily addressed and our students who updated their cellphone numbers this week would have received their 30 GB data. However, there were some technical difficulties with Vodacom subscribers, which will be resolved in the next few days. We expect those who qualify for devices to receieve them at the earliest date possible. Over the past seven days, 88% of our students accessed Blackboard, and we shall be monitoring this very carefully. We are continuing to engage with Telecommunication companies and the Department of Higher Education and Training to arrive at a more sustainable solution to data access to support online teaching and learning, and will communicate as developments unfold.
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the telecommunications companies for their co-operation. A special thanks to the divisions in UJ that have worked tirelessly on making this happen. These include our Information and Communications Systems (ICS) division, Centre for Academic Technologies (CAT) and Finance.
We thank our academic and professional and support staff who have worked with passion and commitment during these difficult times to ensure that the shift to online teaching and learning is as seamless as possible and that the University operations continue uninterrupted for the most part. Their response to this crisis has been extraordinary, which demonstrates their firm commitment to seeing the academic year completed. At great length and personal sacrifices, many have had to be innovative in the ways they perform their duties. This has helped in our efforts to invest in our students and enable UJ’s reputation for global excellence and stature. It is worth noting that the University’s investments and commitment to positioning UJ within the Fourth Industrial Revolution have paid off, as demonstrated by various 4IR solutions. We will outline some of these in due course.
This week, it emerged that UJ has been placed 75th overall in the world, out of more than 850 participating universities across 89 countries, for global societal, economic and environmental impact in the latest Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings. This is is based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations (UN), which are designed to address the most serious and critical global challenges of our time. UJ was also recognised for and excelled in several specific SDGs.
We fully recognise that online work can lead to online fatigue and mental stress (https://www.uj.ac.za/corporateservices/ads/psycad), and thus we encourage you to find some time for breaks. Extensive consultations on managing the impact and processes associated with the move to an online environment are being held almost daily. For more information and vital pointers regarding online teaching and learning as well as working remotely, click here (https://www.uj.ac.za/news/corona-virus//Pages/Teaching-remotely.aspx).
Yesterday, President Cyril Ramaphosa downgraded the lockdown from Level 5 to 4 with effect from the 1 May 2020. Level 4 lockdown means that “some activities can be allowed to resume subject to extreme precautions.” The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology will detail what activities in the post-secondary sector will be allowed to resume later today.
Monday, 27 April 2020, is Freedom Day when we renew our commitment to the values and ethos of our democracy. During this crisis, we have consistently been reminded of the freedoms that we have and enjoy despite the lockdown. I urge you all to honour and remember this day as we continue to applaud those in essential services such as healthcare workers, shop assistants and others who have made it possible for us to live in safety.
If you are able to contribute, here is an activity that you can undertake developed by the Water and Health Research Centre in the Faculty of Health Sciences to keep people safe. As you know, wearing a mask is mandatory and a requirement to keep us protected. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcmrEZGFP6U.
We appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and social distancing (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all the times.
Should any of you experience symptoms of the corona virus, please use the National Hotline of 0800 029 999 or WhatsApp line 0600 123456 or go to the following link for more information: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/. Please also continue to check uLink (https://ulink.uj.ac.za/).
The University leadership will continue to monitor the situation and any updates regarding the lockdown and teaching and learning will be communicated. Only information issued via the University’s official communication platforms is legitimate. This information may be verified by visiting: http://www.uj.ac.za/newandevents/Pages/Update-on-UJ-COVID-19-response.aspx.
Have a pleasant long weekend, and take care!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg