Dear UJ Community,
Late yesterday afternoon, as I sat on the balcony enjoying a book for the next VC Reading Group (The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy), I could not help but notice how the city landscape was already beginning to regain its vibrant bloom. Trees swayed from side to side while joining in the scramble to put on new leaves, occasionally dwarfing the nascent bloom of the flowers. Suddenly, the landscape was transformed into a splendour of riotous colour and beauty.
As we bade farewell to August and welcomed spring, which is traditionally known as the start of a season of regeneration or rejuvenation, I reflected on Women’s Month, which is a fraught contradiction in our country. I was reminded of the resilience and strength of South Africa women throughout our history and indeed now as they bear the brunt of the pandemic. As the Sepedi version of the African proverb goes, mosadi o tshwara thipa ka bogaleng (a woman holds the knife by its sharp edge). Yet, this was also a somber reflection. We are a country beset with a scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) and other social ills and we have a duty to actively transform our society to ensure the safety of women. Last week, the UJ Library, in partnership with external and internal stakeholders, and the UJ Community Engagement Unit hosted a series of events tackling crucial issues ranging from GBV, women in engineering and poverty elimination. Though we must continue to take the fight beyond dialogue, it is an important tool. I urge you all to read more on these on our website.
A wide array of women at our university continue to be trailblazers in their various fields. Please join me in congratulating Boniswa Madikizela, a senior lecturer in accountancy and a member of UJ Council. She received top honours at the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) virtual recognition awards on Saturday, 28 August 2021. She received the Trailblazer in Academia Award that recognises aspiring chartered accountants making a real and tangible impact on society. Congratulations Boniswa, we are immensely proud of you!
As some of you might recall, at the beginning of this year, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) called on universities to submit applications for the prestigious Future Professors Programme (FPP) Phase 2, managed by UJ. This programme was established to prepare promising and productive early-career academics to become the new cohort of professors in the South African higher education system. I am delighted to announce that the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, has approved Prof Shanade Barnabas from the Faculty of Humanities, Department of Communication studies and Dr Nonhlangabezo Mabuba from the Faculty of Science, Department of Chemical Sciences, as candidates in the FPP Phase 2. Both academics are well-respected in their fields both nationally and internationally. Congratulations Prof Barnabas and Dr Mabuba – we wish you success in your journey!
More good news at our University this week is that our Arts & Culture’s Virtual Art Gallery, launched in partnership with MTN SA Foundation, scooped up this year’s Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) Innovation Award. This is not only aligned with our University’s strategic focus on 4IR but also inspires a continued spirit and ethos of innovation. We are proud of you, well done!
The College Reading & Learning Association’s (CRLA) International Tutor Training Program Certification (ITTPC) team have accredited UJ’s Tutor Training for Levels 1,2, and 3 till 2024. UJ is the only university in South Africa with an internationally accredited tutor training programme. Our tutors are invaluable to our teaching and learning processes. This accreditation is a testament of the success of this programme.
As we move towards the final stretch of the academic year, I wish to remind our students to remain focused in their studies so that they are well prepared for the upcoming assessments and final examinations. Despite the challenges of remote learning and working, UJ was among the few universities that completed their academic programmes on time last year. I am pleased that we are well on track to achieve the same feat this year, thanks to the resilience and dedication of our students and staff.
To our students, an important reminder thar YOUR VOICE MATTERS! You have a key role to play in improving teaching and learning. Your lecturers value your feedback. Please take a few minutes to fill in the teaching evaluation questionnaire. You may use the link that was emailed to you or click on Evaluate this module in your module on Blackboard.
TEDx University of Johannesburg hosted its third independently organised TED event last week. Over the course of two days, fascinating thinkers and leaders from the UJ community and beyond presented innovative ideas and outlined opportunities across the continent. The theme this year was Gaining the Edge. If you missed this virtual live-streamed event, you can view the TED talks here
Day 1: https://youtu.be/PBw8bVKq5U8
Day 2: https://youtu.be/BhWtQzTeL8Y
On a different note, we welcomed two colleagues to our Professorship this week. Prof Arnesh Telukdarie (Professor and FoodBev Manufacturing SETA Research Chair, Postgraduate School of Engineering Management) explored business systems optimisation for 4IR when he delivered his professorial inauguration address on Wednesday, 1 September 2021. Prof Kriveshini Pillay (Professor in Chemical Sciences) shed some light on Nanotechnology as a tool towards solving some of South Africa’s challenges when she delivered her address on Thursday, 2 September. Professors Telukdarie and Pillay, I trust that this new journey in your academic career will be fruitful.
Congratulations also to Prof Nicolin Govender, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, for a great outcome through NVIDIA and for the project “Digital Twins for Granular Material processes.” The project connects with NVIDIA’s Applied Research Accelerator Program (supporting high-performance computing and artificial intelligence).
Last evening, I also received the exciting news that Prof Adrian van Breda, Faculty of Humanities, received the ASASWEI Social Work Lifetime Achiever of the Year Award. More information about the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI) is available here.
We also had a bittersweet occasion this week as we said farewell to Prof Angina Parekh, our Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic. She has played an invaluable role at the University and contributed immensely to the growth of UJ’s stature. We wish her all the best with her retirement! Prof Letlhokwa George Mpedi officially took over the reins at the beginning of this month. Prof Mpedi is one of our most astute and consummate professionals, and we look forward to his contributions. He recently published a thought-provoking article about the many instances in South Africa where public funds were lost due to blunders or ineptitude. The article also offers interesting possible interventions. Please click here to read this. I also welcome Dr Mpoti Ralephata the Chief Operating Officer Designate. Dr Ralephata has vast experience in corporate and we wish him well.
It is not just our academic staff who contribute to the growth of our University. Our PAs and Administrative Officers do outstanding work that often goes unnoticed. They are the hidden faces that make our societies tick. They play an important role in how our institution functions – and we are only able to because of their efficiency and effectiveness. In the past we celebrated their sterling role by hosting a sit-down breakfast/lunch at an off-campus venue, but as has become custom with the COVID-19 restrictions, this year we held a UJ Virtual Secretaries’ Day Celebration. I was impressed with the vibrancy of the event; the mood underlined their commitment and dedication to their work.
Please inform us about your vaccination status via the link: https://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac. Enter the information after your first vaccination, and where relevant, update it after your second vaccination. The survey takes less than one minute. We use the numbers (and not your personal details), to inform us on the vaccination statistics of the UJ community. The statistics will guide us in our response to the COVID-19 situation and the implementation of our re-integration plans. You may also use this link to notify our campus clinics if you have tested positive for COVID-19, or if you know of a colleague or a student who has tested positive.
The University leadership will continue to monitor the national and provincial COVID-19 outlook, and an update will be provided accordingly. This information may be verified by visiting: www.uj.ac.za/coronavirus. 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 continue to check uLink. Please notify our campus clinics if you have tested positive for COVID-19, or if you know of a colleague or a student who has tested positive. Please also 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: https://www.uj.ac.za/coronavirus.
We appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all times.
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg