Dear UJ Community,
This week, I wish to start on what may seem a lighter note. As alluded to before, on different platforms, I am not an avid sports fan or even a fanatic for that matter. I even declared that my father tried without success to force me to support Moroka Swallows. Though, this by no means implies that I am not a supporter of sports. Nonetheless, those of you who follow football would have seen how exhilarating the atmosphere is inside the stadiums in the United Kingdom (UK) each time soccer teams square off against each other. The stadiums are filled with fans, something that is an envy to local fans since the COVID-19 restrictions early last year.
In case you are wondering, the situation in the UK and elsewhere in Europe is because various governments decided that fans may return to stadiums if they are fully vaccinated or have received a negative test result in the previous 48 hours, among other safety measures. These include wearing masks in indoor areas, avoiding close contact with people one does not know and following one-way signage around stadiums.
Locally, it is encouraging to see that the soccer federation, the South African Football Association (SAFA), this week, decided to allow a limited number of fans into stadiums on condition that they are fully vaccinated. As in Europe, vaccinated people can obtain their certificate through the National Department of Health App or website link. We also hope to welcome back vaccinated fans to our University sports events early next year, depending on the COVID-19 numbers.
Still on sports matters, please join me in congratulating our men’s senior football team, which has been crowned champions of the 2021 FNB Varsity Football tournament this week. The Orange Army gave it all, scoring four stunning goals against the University of Free State in the finals. Most exciting, we were the tournament log leaders from the start of the competition, narrowly losing just one match against the Tshwane University of Technology in the sixth round. These are exploits worth extolling because the team narrowly missed out in 2014 and 2016. Ms Nomsa Mahlangu, our Senior Director of UJ Sports, and Coach Karabo Mogudi, your efforts have proven fruitful. Well done! Click here to read more about this.
Such are the achievements by our staff and students, almost weekly, that I wonder if it may not be a matter of time before I run out of superlatives. Please join me in congratulating Mr Dean van der Merwe, a lecturer within the Department of Childhood Education (Faculty of Education), who was recently selected as the winner of UJ’s Three Minute Thesis competition. Well done Dean, we wish you all the best in the international U21 competition!
In the same vein, four of our final year Bachelor of Environmental Health students, together with UJ’s Community Engagement Specialist in the University Relations Division, Mr Andy Balaram, were acknowledged for their contribution towards the City of Johannesburg’s mandate of environmental consciousness at the 2021 Johannesburg Community Environmental Awards. The students, who were awarded a Certificate of Excellence, are Abongile Malusi, Bulelwa Xalabile, Malibongwe Blessing Silinda and Ntsako Mthombeni. Congratulations, well done all and keep up the good work!
On a slightly different note, this season also ushers in a new era for our student leadership. Voting for our 2022 Student Representative Council (UJSRC) took place this week from 4th to the 6th of October 2021. These were the second SRC elections to be held online, where our students experienced the efficiency and accuracy of technology without irregularities and other forms of manipulation. It was impressive to see contenders introduce unique ways of campaigning, and I wish to commend all the student organisations and independent candidates who participated in this process. Congratulations to our incoming 2022 UJSRC, we look forward to your contributions!
Still, on leadership issues, I am pleased to announce that Prof Desiree Smal, the Vice-Dean Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, is currently the incoming president of the Design Education Forum of Southern Africa (DEFSA). Prof Smal played a vital role at the 16th DEFSA conference titled DE+AFRIKA+4IR+ (Design Education/Afrika/4th Industrial Revolution), which was streamed live from our Arts Centre (5-7 October 2021). The two-day conference was the first virtual design education conference presented by DEFSA and addressed the past, present and future of design education while considering the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the context of Afrikan scholarship. Prof Smal, I wish you all the best on the journey.
This week, I had the opportunity to share some vital information about the University’s performance thus far, during the VC Consultation Session with the Senior Leadership Group (SLG), where I was joined by members of the Executive Committee (MEC), Executive Deans, Executive Directors, Senior Directors and Senior Leaders. We reported on possible and practical measures that could contribute towards the University’s business sustainability as well as the 2022 academic and vaccination plans. I am certain that with the insights provided and strategies presented, the University is well poised to add another successful chapter to our legacy.
Now, the countdown to the year-end examinations and assessments has begun, and academics are making the final preparations for these. I encourage all our students to stay focused as they gear up for their year-end examinations, which are now only a few days away. We are acutely aware that our students are under immense pressure during this time of the year. This may be because of the stress related to the preparations for exams or because of other academic and personal challenges. It is only normal to feel overwhelmed at times and I urge all our students who might feel despondent not to give up or resort to desperate measures. Our Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development (PsyCaD) is also on hand to assist students. This includes a walk-in service at all our offices on the different campuses, individual counselling sessions as well as our 24-hour Crisis Line (082 054 1137).
Lastly, our UJ alumni community, many of whom are leaders in their fields, continue to make positive strides, locally and abroad. Join me in congratulating two of our alumni who were recently appointed in fields related to our domain. Dr Nkosinathi Sishi has been appointed as the new Director-General of the Department of Higher Education and Training and Ms Sharmla Chetty is the incoming Chief Executive Officer of Duke Corporate Education. I trust that their visionary leadership will be evident in the respective portfolios.
I would also like to take this opportunity to join the world in extending congratulations to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who celebrated a milestone 90th birthday, yesterday. As a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Archbishop Tutu remains one of the country’s most iconic anti-apartheid voices and his life’s legacy is indeed a cause for celebration.
We again remind you to 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 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
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.