Dear UJ Community,
This week on Wednesday, 16 June 2021, as we commemorated the 45th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprising (Youth Day in South Africa), I walked in on an animated conversation among a group of young people in one of our campuses. They were arguing about the latest COVID-19 restrictions, after the President, H.E Cyril Ramaphosa, moved the country to an adjusted Alert Level 3 lockdown from Level 2. “This curfew thing was started by the apartheid regime. It’s just a matter of time before we are placed in a state of emergency, just as the apartheid regime did,” said one young man, to rounds of rapturous applause.
Amid this cynicism, there were voices of reason. Some in the group alluded to the devastating consequences of the pandemic on families and the worsening unemployment rate, especially among the youth. I was impressed when one teenager even referred to the successive Statistics South Africa reports. As the President reiterated in his June 16 virtual address, “nearly 64% of young people in South Africa are unemployed (which) is something no country can afford.”
As I continued with my walk, I could faintly hear one young woman saying: “Stop misleading people with your ignorant rant. As the President said, these restrictions have been effective in containing the spread of the virus. You can continue to ignore them at your own peril!” Well, it is at our collective peril! We all have to comply with the COVID-19 restrictions or some people will be hurt by this pandemic. The choice is clear, let us comply.
Just like the President, we have spoken about this many times but it does bear repeating because oftentimes there are lapses in our behaviour. As the President reminded us, Gauteng is now the worst hit of the provinces that are officially in a third wave (the others are Free State, North-West and Northern Cape). While we are pleased that a lot of our students and staff members are wearing their face masks, a lot of others do so in casual way that does not cover their noses and mouths. Some even ignore basic regulations like physical distancing and regularly washing their hands and sanitising.
Once again, we have a legal obligation, as a University, to ensure compliance with national health and safety regulations. Should any of our employees or students continue to be in non-compliance according to the required and legislative requirements, the University will take drastic steps as part of the corrective action. We also urge our colleagues who are 60 years and older to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the government and get vaccinated for the virus. Alternatively, you may use the private sector vaccination rollout option that also works well.
Please do, however, keep in mind, a vaccination does not mean you cannot contract the virus. We have seen cases of individuals, including at UJ, who have contracted the virus after being vaccinated. It is therefore necessary to ensure all regular precautions. Further, a vaccinated person can still infect others – your mask, physical distancing and sanitisation remain imperative to protect yourself and others. The principle of reinfection, given the variants, is also explained here.
It is important to note that under the Adjusted Alert Level 3, the status quo remains with regards to the academic programme delivery: all teaching and learning will continue to remain online. With regards to staff members (across all faculties, divisions, and units), it is advisable that those who may have difficulties working remotely, be allowed to work from their office, workstations on campuses and other University sites. This must be done in consultation with the relevant ELG and line managers (senior managers, heads of department, etc).
A cruel marker of the pandemic has been the sheer and often unabating grief we have had to weather. Our sincere condolences go out to each one of you whose loved ones, friends and colleagues have been taken away too soon. It is with profound sadness that we heard of the recent passing of Prof Michael Cross, Director of the Ali Mazrui Centre for Higher Education Studies (AMCHES). Prof Cross leaves a lasting legacy of dynamic scholarship in higher education, focusing on advancing excellence in a Pan African and Global South context, linked to the decolonisation project of epistemic and social justice. He will be remembered for his immense intellectual contribution, and his dedication to the development of young scholars, many of whom occupy leadership positions in academia, government and civil society. A formidable scholar, his legacy will continue through AMCHES. Further to the memorial at 2 pm today, I share with you a tribute from the minister’s office.
On a different note, the Division of Academic Planning, Quality Promotion and Academic Staff Development (DAPQPASD) has published “Teaching Innovation for the 21st Century: A collection of UJ Teaching and Learning Vignettes” under the leadership of our Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic, Prof Angina Parekh. This project showcases innovative teaching practices at UJ and is motivated by the desire to develop an intensive and rich scholarship of teaching and learning. This will become a well-utilised resource in years to come, as we continue to contend with rapidly evolving technologies. Click here to read more about this.
Please join me in congratulating our Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation, Prof Saurabh Sinha, who has been appointed as an official member of the Community of Practice (CoP) for Entrepreneurial Universities in the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme for the 2021/2022 financial year. The CoPs have become the universities’ voice of entrepreneurship and are called upon for information, guidance, advice, and engagement with other public and private sector entities. Congratulations! We trust that your expertise will further enrich the entrepreneurial sector.
As usual, I remind you 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. 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 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.