Dear UJ Community,
In one of his many visits to South Africa, renowned African author and academic Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o told an interesting story about a son who came from a family that lived in abject poverty. On a cold winter evening, the mother sent the son to a neighbour’s house to ask for hot ash because the family did not have a matchbox to make fire. Upon his arrival at the neighbour’s house, the son found the family huddled around a fireplace. He quickly joined them – completely forgetting about his mother and siblings back home. Meanwhile, as he soaked in the warmth of the fire burning brightly – mercury kept plummeting.
I was reminded of this story this week when I led a UJ delegation on a two-day visit to the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane and Universidade Joaquim Chissano in Mozambique – both named after that country’s liberation icons. Much has been said about Joaquim Chissano, so I will briefly refer to Eduardo Mondlane. Born in 1920, Mondlane worked as a shepherd until he was ten years old, when he started primary school. That was the beginning of his education journey that took him to South Africa, Portugal and then the USA, where he obtained a doctoral degree at Northwestern University.
However, unlike the son in Wa Thiong’o’s story, Mondlane did not forget his roots or humble beginnings after he was enlightened through education. He went on to be the co-founder and first president of Frelimo (Mozambican Liberation Front), the movement that would later achieve Mozambique’s independence after his death.
As such, it was an honour to lead a delegation to a university named after him, along with that named after Chissano. We held high-level talks with the leadership of both universities and shared our respective visions on how best we could achieve collaborations in exchange programmes in the areas of research, staff development, digitisation and resources mobilisation.
Apart from myself, the UJ delegation comprised Prof. Saurabh Sinha (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation); Dr Nolitha Vukuza (Senior Executive Director: University Relations; Student Affairs & UJ Sport), Professor Nadine Petersen (Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education) Prof Annie Temane (Vice-dean: Research and Innovation, Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) and Mr Thokozane Mbonane (incoming Head of Dept.: Environmental Health, FHS). I am excited about these regional partnerships and optimistic that they will yield much-needed results.
Talking of research, I wish to congratulate the Centre for Sociological Research and Practice (CSRP), Faculty of Humanities, for UJ for securing a R4 million grant from the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS). The grant will advance the implementation of the Sam Moyo Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in collaboration with NIHSS. The grant will contribute towards the development of scholars and scholarship in land and agrarian reform in South Africa and the continent by addressing the gaps in South-South focused land and agrarian policy and scholarship while complementing teaching capacity on land and agrarian subject related areas. Well done to Dr Trevor Ngwane and his team at CSRP for securing this grant!
I am also pleased to announce that some of my UJ colleagues and I have been listed by the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA) as finalists for the 2021 IITPSA President’s Awards. The 2021 awards, are presented by the IITPSA in partnership with ITWeb, the Gordon Institute of Business Science and EngineerIT, and are their theme is Excellence in the New Normal. The initiative is aimed at recognising the important role that IT professionals play in helping the world to adapt to a changing digital environment. I am thrilled to see that Ms Khathu Sibanda, our Chief Information Officer (CIO), has been listed in the category of Visionary CIO of the Year Award 2021.
Furthermore, our Department of Electrical and Electrical and Electronic Engineering Science’s Research Connect project has also been listed as a finalist in the Social Responsibility/Community Award 2021 category. The project focuses on connecting project-based learning with community engagement and is run by Professors Suné von Solms and Johan Meyer. The winners will be announced at the gala virtual awards ceremony on 12 April. To support the nominees, please go to the Annual President’s Awards 2021 Finalists – IITPSA. Well done, and good luck to all the finalists!
On a different note, UJ through the Division for Teaching Excellence manages the Future Professors Programme Phase 2 (FPP2). Seventeen participants of the first cohort attended a dynamic leadership lab offered by the Johannesburg Business School last week, which included high powered sessions, visits to Constitutional Hill and a fun ride on tuk-tuks. UJ leads the design and delivery of FPP2 with a deep commitment to develop and nurture academic leadership and advance internationalisation-enabled research, teaching, and learning.
The programme seeks to achieve this goal by focusing on three developmental dimensions: (1) Leadership Development, (2) Research Development and (3) Teaching Development. The programme was designed to challenge the candidates to extract and use the skills acquired to develop their leadership identity, pursue personal transformation in the context of an increasingly digital environment, and collaborate effectively with other scholars within and outside of their official workplaces.
In another dynamic collaboration, our Chair of Council, Mike Teke, sat with Muzi Kuzwayo of South Africa’s Promise, an organisation focused on leadership and instilling change in society, to discuss mentorship last week. The conversation, which covers a range of topics from first jobs, setting goals, mentorship and encouraging young people to achieve their highest potential, was enlightening and inspiring. To watch the interview, click here. Furthermore, I pleased to address the Inkamana High School in KwaZulu-Natal. My lecture is on AI and can be accessed here.
Now for COVID-19 matters again. As you would recall, Tuesday 15 March, was the deadline for employees to be fully compliant with the University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy and Implementation Protocol. Employees were expected to have uploaded their vaccination certificates or to have been granted exemption in order to continue having access to UJ campuses and facilities. Since then, the University has been giving employees a grace period to upload their vaccination certificates. However, this grace period will lapse today (Friday 18 March 2022). From this coming Monday, all employees will need to be compliant in order to access campuses and other University sites.
It is encouraging to see that just like our employees, an overwhelming majority of our students have complied with our Vaccination Policy. I wish to remind those who are yet to do so that they have until 31 March 2022 to be fully vaccinated or to have been approved for exemption from vaccination. You can upload your proof of vaccination on http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19 under “COVID-19 Services”, select “UJ Covid-19 Mandatory Vaccine Disclosure Facility”.
Our University’s COVID-19 Vaccination sites will still be open from 09h00 until 15h00, as follows:
- Soweto Campus: Friday 18 March 2022, at Kopanong Hall Foyer. The last vaccinations will be next Friday 25 March 2022.
- Doornfontein Campus, Tuesday 22 March 2022, at the John Orr building, A&B Atrium.
- APK: Wednesdays –23 and 30 March – Auditorium Foyer
Both the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are available for individuals to choose from.
NB: APB will be catered for at APK.
Students can use their inter-campus bus service to these sites.
Please note that the vaccination schedule has been revised as follows:
- Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine: the period between the first dose and the second dose has been shortened to 21 days.
- J&J COVID-19 Vaccine: the booster dose can be given 60 days after the initial dose
- Booster doses of a different vaccine than the one initially received are now allowed.
For any additional information needed please call the numbers provided for each campus. 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.
Lastly, Monday 21 March, is Human Rights Day in South Africa, which marks the anniversary of the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. The day is meant to inspire reflection on one of the worst episodes in our apartheid history. Dr Bhaso Ndzendze, HOD and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations, and myself shared our insights on this historic day in an article we wrote last year, entitled Artificial intelligence and emerging technologies are powerful tools – but can be bad for democracy. In this article, we reflect on the fact that political scientists have already observed that technology creates a small, decision-making elite composed of technocrats and governing officials and how this requires citizen education. Additionally, Dr Ndzendze recently penned an interesting article on the ongoing conflict in the Far East, entitled, A war on infinite fronts — Russia, Ukraine and the double whammy of ‘hybrid warfare’.
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.