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VC Newsletter 06-11-2020

Dear UJ Community

As many parts of the world go into lockdown once again, South Africa whilst needing to be cautious is still managing to hold COVID-19 at bay. Our Grade 12s all over the country have begun writing the final exams and we will be watching these unfold over the coming weeks. As they close this chapter and prepare to make the shift to the next phases of their lives, it is an important reminder of how resilient and tenacious South Africa’s youth are in the face of adversity. Though we still find ourselves in a strange setting, still fighting an invisible and relatively unknown threat and still gripped with a sense of uncertainty, there does seem to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon as we wind down the year.

Back home at our University, our students have entered the second week of their final examinations. While this period marks the last lap of our race to the finish line, it requires even more desire, focus and determination from our students. As communicated previously, any of our students who may feel anxious and overwhelmed during this time should not hesitate to contact our Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development (PsyCaD). The Centre assists students (and staff in times of crisis) in numerous ways. This includes a walk-in service, individual counselling sessions as well as an emergency response through our 24-hour Crisis Line (082 054 1137). You do not have to make an appointment to receive help.

Additionally, our students now have a virtual support resource to assist them to overcome challenges related to managing their time and preparing for online examinations. The Academic Development Centre (ADC) has developed a new application in Blackboard, called On the Go: SOS (student online success). This publishes byte-sized support resources to navigate challenges such as time management, staying motivated and preparing for online examination, among others.

This week also ushered us into the month of November, a period when South Africa commemorates National Disability Rights Awareness until 3 December. At UJ, we understand that providing support to our fellow colleagues and students is more than just sharing the same spaces. The Disability Services offered at the University enables our students and staff to enjoy their stay and excel in their academic journey. Please visit the PsyCaD web page to find out what benefits, services and departments are available to support the UJ community.

As we take stock of the year, we pause to recognise our colleagues, academic and administrative/support staff, who have made exemplary contributions to the success of our University. Next week on Wednesday, 11 November, our University will virtually host the annual Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Awards to celebrate outstanding achievements. The award categories include the Most Promising Young Researcher of the Year, Outstanding Researcher of the Year, Most Promising Young Teacher of the Year, Teacher Excellence, Innovation of the Year, Vice-Chancellor’s Book of the Year, and Service Beyond the Call of Duty. Well done in advance to the winning candidates!

Speaking of academic excellence, our University has collaborated with Accenture to establish the Advanced Technology Centre in Devland, south of Johannesburg. This is a skills development project in under-resourced communities, hailed as one of the most exciting developments in education. The project, which is currently under construction in Extension 1 of the township, has a modern building which will feature state-of-the-art spaces. The property will be used for the advancement of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics to benefit the youth and women of the community. To read more about this, click here.

You may recall that I reported on the success that our University community enjoyed from enrolling in the Coursera online modules that were introduced this year. Coursera launched a COVID-19 campus response to the global pandemic and invited institutions all over the world to participate by offering free licenses. Since securing 10,000 licenses from Coursera, UJ has been breaking multiple records with Coursera. I am delighted to share with you the news that the global CEO of Coursera, Jeff Maggioncalda, has congratulated our University for the outstanding participation in this initiative. UJ outperformed all institutions in SA, as well as in Africa, and ranked 33 out of 10 000 institutions that participated, globally. The skills UJ staff and students acquired are in line with the 4IR and will serve our community well in the future.

Please join me in congratulating Benjamin van Nugteren, who has been appointed to serve a second term as a member of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) Professional Board for Emergency Care (PBEC). Mr van Nugteren is an Emergency Care Practitioner and the Programme Manager working in the Department of Emergency Medical Care at UJ. The HPCSA, with its 12 Professional Boards under its ambit, was established to provide control over the education, training and registration of health professionals.

Our University continues to make valuable contributions in the HPCSA. Congratulations to Mrs Ansunel de la Rey, a lecturer in the Department of Optometry, for her appointment as a member of the Professional Board for Optometry and Dispensing Opticians in the HPCSA. Her five-year term started on 1 November 2020. I also congratulate Ms. Tintswalo Brenda Mahlaola, a lecturer in the Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation, who has been appointed by the Minister of Health, Hon Dr Zweli Mkhize, to serve a second term with the HPCSA’s Professional Board for Radiography and Clinical Technology (RCT). At an inaugural meeting on 2 November, Ms Mahlaola was elected Vice-Chairperson of the RCT Board and Board representative of Council.

Lastly, the UJ Art Gallery has a fascinating exhibition on display. The exhibition, “intimate presences/affective absences,” is the work of Prof Leora Farber, Director: Visual Identities in Art and Design (VIAD), Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA). The creation is unique in that Prof Farber “grows” the exhibits using bacteria and each piece serves as its own story. The exhibition closes on 28 November, please do make a booking to visit. To make the most out of the visit, take a look at this brochure.

We again appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary COVID-19 measures, hygiene and physical distancing at all times. Please continue to visit our COVID-19 portal on the UJ website for valuable information, including health and wellbeing. Only information issued via the University’s official communication platforms is legitimate. This information may be verified by visiting the UJ COVID-19 Updates at

With my best wishes,

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

University of Johannesburg

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