Dear UJ Community,
There is something profoundly beautiful about using the language of nature to convey important messages. Although subtle, the symbolism of such language can be a powerful tool to reveal the truth about various situations facing human beings. The State President, H.E Cyril Ramaphosa, used this art of storytelling in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last night. He could not have chosen a better plant than the fynbos biome, which is renowned for its resilience in the face of even the most adverse of weather conditions.
While the President used this comparison to describe South Africa’s relative success in responding to the COVID-19 storm, it also aptly defines our University’s resilience in the face of what was potentially a damaging disruption to our academic programme. When the President said, “our plans as a country had to be adapted in response to a global emergency, and that budgets had to be reprioritised…” it resonated with us at UJ.
We too had to review our plans and redirect our budgets as we made the shift to a remote, online delivery of the academic programme. As the global crisis unravelled, we did not allow ourselves to be paralysed into despondency. Like the fynbos that is capable of clinging to even the highest mountains and survive the heat or cold, we have remained steadfast and focused on developing the next generation of skilled professionals. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has reignited us to do things differently; it has been a catalyst to perform our duties with much more innovation and agility.
It was pleasing to hear the President say that “it is our priority for this year to regain lost time and improve educational outcomes, from the early years through to high school and post-school education and training”. As you know, UJ prides itself as being one of the few institutions of higher learning that completed their academic programme on time last year.
We are also pleased with the President’s announcement that as international travel starts to reopen more widely, the government will undertake a full roll-out of e-Visas to visitors from China, India, Nigeria, Kenya and 10 other countries that could contribute to the development of skills that are critically needed for our economic recovery. This is a welcome intervention, particularly because of our University’s strategic partnerships with sister institutions in the areas of knowledge and skills development. This will also assist with our international students who may want to return to their home country.
At our University, registration for the 2021 Academic Year for returning and postgraduate students has been extended until Friday next week, 19 February 2021. Students must register as soon as possible to access academic support, including data. Data allocations are subject to registration and the loading of the data requires third-party coordination – access is therefore not immediate upon registration. For more information on this, and the return of students to campus residences, click here.
On a different note, the President of the UJ Convocation, Prof. Boitumelo Diale, cordially invites you to join the virtual conversation with the Executive Committee of Convocation as industry leaders and influencers. The event, to be held under the title, Conversation with the Executive Committee of Convocation, will start at 16:00 on Thursday, 18 February 2021. To RSVP, click here.
Immediately thereafter, at 17:00, with the support of the Chinese Embassy and joined by Honorable Fish Mahlalela, Deputy Minister of Tourism, we will celebrate the Chinese New Year. 2021 is the Year of the Ox, which is associated with hard work and serenity. To those celebrating the occasion, including our colleagues at the UJ-NanjingTech Confucius Institute, I wish you a happy Chinese New Year | 新年快乐!
Lastly, our Chief Operations Officer (COO), Professor Andre Swart, will be retiring from the University at the end of this year on the 31 December 2021. Since joining the University, Prof. Swart has been a loyal and valuable member of our academic staff and leadership team. He has immensely contributed to the success of our university. Prof. Swart, we wish you well in your future endeavours, and we will remember you for your hard work and dedication, which you infused with courtesy, charm, and a great work ethic. We hope to engage you in your retirement on a consultancy basis.
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: https://www.uj.ac.za/news/corona-virus//. 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
Have a pleasant weekend and take care!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg