18 February 2022
Dear UJ Community,
Today feels good! It feels good to see our students back on campus, after almost two years of Zooming (excuse the pun) into classes remotely from across the country and elsewhere in the world. Our campuses have sprung back to life, and excitement is palpable everywhere. It is evidently clear that many of our students have missed this true University experience during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Indeed, for many of them, on-campus learning is not only essential for a focused environment, but it is also conducive to building a sense of community. Welcome back!
Those of you who may not have had the opportunity to attend or watch last Friday’s official Academic Opening ceremony, I encourage you to read about it or watch by clicking here. The hybrid event was attended by the UJ Management Executive Committee (MEC), Executive Deans, and the Student Representative Council (SRC) President, Mxolisi Manana, among others. Appreciation to Dr Nolitha Vukuza, Senior Executive Director, and her team in the University Relations Division for organising such an important event that marks the commencement of the Academic Programme.
As we savour the traditional University experience, it is important to remember that the pandemic is not over yet. Despite this, there have been encouraging developments. Please join me in congratulating our University’s Visiting Professor Padmashree Gehl Sampath (primarily affiliated with Harvard University), who has helped secure a grant equivalent to R11,5m from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to build capabilities for vaccine production in African countries.
Prof Sampath secured the grant in collaboration with Prof Fiona Tregenna (South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Industrial Development) within the UJ CBE School of Economics. The project: Accelerating Vaccine Production in Africa: A Centres of Excellence Initiative, will run over 18 months (starting this month) and will closely align with our efforts to contribute to the promotion of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The grant includes fieldwork, capacity building, workshops and engagement events, postdocs, salaries etc. To borrow from Prof Tregenna’s words, “We are excited about this significant new project, which not only brings great funding but also contributes to important developmental objectives.” My sincere appreciation to Prof Sampath for bringing this grant to UJ, congratulations and best wishes with the implementation!
Still on Prof Fiona Tregenna, I am thrilled that she has also attained other outstanding achievements, in terms of the following appointments.
- Dr Bonginkosi Emmanuel “Blade” Nzimande, SA Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, has appointed her to the Board of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC).
- To the Editorial Board, HSRC Press (https://www.hsrcpress.ac.za).
- To the Board of the Journal of Globalization and Development (https://www.degruyter.com/journal) – note that she was invited by Nobel Prize Laureate Prof Joe Stiglitz.
- To the “Task Force on Employment”, a global Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD) residing with the Columbia University and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), also chaired by Prof Stiglitz.
These appointments are in addition to having been appointed to national tone-setting agencies including the Presidential Economic Advisory Council composed of leading economists from South Africa and abroad. Congratulations, Prof Tregenna, thank you for your contribution to improve life and learning at the global, continental, and local levels. Well done!
Back to COVID-19 matters, and as indicated this week, it is encouraging to see that just like our employees, our students are embracing our University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy. Many have not wasted time, and have uploaded their proof of vaccination. Please remember that employees and students who have neither been at least partially vaccinated nor applied for exemption in accordance with the deadlines communicated, will be deemed as non-compliant with the Mandatory Vaccination Policy as from this coming Monday, on 21 February 2022 and will not be allowed to access UJ campuses or facilities.
Employees and students who have been exempted are required to provide an email proof of their exemption application outcome. They must also present a negative COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test result taken not more than seven days before.. Employees who are denied access due to being regarded as non-compliant must inform their line manager who will liaise with their HR Business partner on the process to follow.
Please remember that employees must be fully vaccinated by 15 March 2022 (fully vaccinated does not include the booster shot, where applicable), or have been approved for exemption from vaccination. As for students, they are required to be fully vaccinated by 31 March 2022 or have been approved for exemption from vaccination. Staff, postdoctoral research fellows and students can upload their proof of vaccination on https://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac. Under “COVID-19 Services”, select “UJ Covid-19 Mandatory Vaccine Disclosure Facility”. For more information on mandatory vaccination protocol, as well as assistance for vaccination and downloading of certificates, please visit our University website, www.uj.ac.za/covid-19.
I also wish to remind our employees and students that they are requested to allow an additional 30 minutes for arrival for access control and screening processes. To ensure that the experience is as seamless as possible, employees and students are requested to bring along their proof of identification, namely: barcoded driver’s licence, passport or RSA ID card/book; as well as vaccination certificate (printed or digital copy) or proof of exemption application. Furthermore, you are encouraged to complete the COVID-19 pre-screening process before arrival. The link will be sent via email to all persons from the email address University of Johannesburg (firstname.lastname@example.org) and with the subject University of Johannesburg – Covid19 – Daily Checklist.
On a different note, it was pleasing to hear President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his reply to the State of the Nation (SONA) on Wednesday, quoting from an opinion article I wrote this week. In the article, I share my insights on South Africa’s burgeoning youth unemployment problem. You may click here to read the article.
The Vice-Chancellor Virtual Reading Group sessions return next week on Friday, 25 February 2022, at the usual time of 14:00. The first recommended book for discussion for this year is The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, an economist and philosopher. This work is considered the “bible of capitalism” and details the first system of political economy. Use this link to join in the discussion: https://zoom.us/j/94637436383
Lastly, I wish to thank everyone of you who sent me messages of condolences during our family bereavement, following the passing of my father last week. Thank you very much for your support, kind words and prayers during this difficult time. His soul now rests in eternal peace.
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/.
As usual, 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, thank you!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.