Dear UJ Community
As we commemorate Workers’ Day tomorrow, I wish to salute our unsung heroes and heroines at UJ. They have worked tirelessly and diligently to make our transition to online teaching and learning possible. Whilst the challenges seemed insurmountable, it is through your sheer sacrifices, resilience and innovation that we can make strides in ensuring that the University discharges its core functions.
This morning we learnt of the loss of Denis Goldberg, an apartheid activist, who in 1964 became the youngest and only white MK member to be sentenced in the Rivonia Trial. It is a sad day for South Africa as we have lost a giant in our struggle. May your soul rest in peace and strength to the family.
Let me now acknowledge our colleagues in the Student Affairs Division, who have worked around the clock to ensure that our students, including those who remained in campus residences and privately-owned accommodation, are safe. Our Protection Services division has also ensured that our campuses are safe and secure in this difficult time.
As we get ready to enter the third week of the second term, I trust that students who have responded to the request to verify their contact details have received their allocated 30GB data for the first 30-day period. We are working hard to deliver devices to qualifying students. We at the university are committed to providing teaching excellence even through online platforms. More than 90% of our students have been accessing Blackboard and uLink. These platforms, along with our website offer valuable resources for both staff and students regarding teaching and learning as well as working remotely. I urge you all to make use of these.
The UJ Library and Information Centre is providing innovative solutions to ensure an enabling environment for our students and staff. Library staff are staying in touch with users online: providing training, issuing eBooks, offering assignment support via Zoom, as well as short tutorial videos and hosting events online, among other services. The Library is also able to help users by answering their queries on a 24-hour basis via BOTsa, a UJ Library ChatBot.
Once the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation announces his plans for higher education institutions, the university will communicate with you. We are entering Level 4 of the lockdown. The university will be taking measures to ensure the health and safety of staff and students with approved protocols in place. In these difficult times, staff are working diligently to ensure that the university operates smoothly. Those who experience difficulties should not hesitate to inform their line managers.
The long-term financial sustainability of universities must be a priority for us, given the impact of the national lockdown. The university has placed a moratorium on new staff appointments, academic and professional/support staff, except where the filling of a position is deemed critical for the continuity of business.
We are reaching out to our staff and students, alumni, stakeholders, partners and to the broader UJ community to donate to the UJ COVID-19 DISCRETIONARY FUND. Firstly, the donation will help us to provide our students in need, with data and devices to access learning materials and connect to the various online learning platforms. UJ has over 50 000 students, and NSFAS funds as many as 62% of them, 60% are first-generation university students and 28% come from the poorest schools in South Africa. We urge you to honour your obligations in terms of fees which are due. Secondly, funds will be used to secure vital personal protective equipment. This includes facemasks and face shields, gloves and disposable plastic suits for medical and essential services personnel. For more information on this initiative and payment options, please visit: https://www.uj.ac.za/news/corona-virus//Pages/UJ-COVID-19-Discretionary-Fund.aspx
The university celebrates that eight of our staff members have been nominated for the 2019/2020 NSTF-South32 Awards. They include Prof Ian Dubery (Department of Biochemistry), Prof Jan Kramers (Department of Geology), Prof Hassina Mouri (Department of Geology), Prof Samuel Oluwafemi (Department of Chemical Sciences), Prof Philiswa Nomngongo (Department of Chemical Sciences), Prof Omotayo Arotiba (Department of Chemical Sciences), Prof Kriveshini Pillay (Department of Chemical Sciences), and Prof Johan Meyer (Research Connect Group – Department of Electrical Engineering). The announcement of the Awards finalists will be circulated through the NSTF eNews in May 2020, with the announcement of the winners soon expected. Thank you for flying the UJ flag high, and all the best!
Lastly, our university has over the past few years embarked on an important project to provide our first-year students and new staff members with virtual tours of our campuses and the surrounding communities. We are delighted that this project has now been finalised and will provide you with the opportunity to view the university and our city virtually on our website.
We appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and social distancing at all the times.
Should any of you experience symptoms of the coronavirus, 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
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: www.uj.ac.za/coronavirus
Have a pleasant long weekend and stay safe!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala,
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg