Dear UJ Community
Since the President of South Africa, HE Cyril Ramaphosa’s latest announcement of a further relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions, several of our students have taken to social media expressing their desire to return to campuses and residences. Knowing how dedicated our staff members are, I am certain that many feel the same, and that they cannot wait to return to their respective campuses.
In announcing a further relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions from National Lockdown Level 2 to Level 1 on Wednesday, 16 September 2020, the President said there has been a gradual but steady decline in the number of new COVID-19 infections over the last few weeks. South Africa is now recording less than 2 000 cases a day, as compared to 12 000 two months ago. The recovery rate has significantly increased to 89%, and fewer people are now presenting with symptoms at our health facilities than before.
The implication of this further relaxation to Lockdown Level 1 for the higher education sector is that 100% of the student population can return to campus, with the appropriate health and safety protocols in place. This is in accordance with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) regulations gazetted on 8 June 2020. As such, all students who wish to return to their respective campuses and residences are now welcome to do so from Monday, 21 September 2020. It will not be necessary to have a letter or access permit in order to enter any of the campuses.
However, it is important to note that even under Lockdown Level 1, and as previously communicated, all teaching and learning will continue to remain online for the duration of the semester. Only those programmes or modules that require in person contact provisioning, such as laboratory work, clinical placements, experiential learning, etc., will be offered on campus in contact mode. Students who are applicable have already been informed accordingly. All other students will continue to be supported through remote teaching, learning and assessment until the end of the year.
All staff are required to return to their respective workstations on their respective campuses. However, to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus, the return of staff may be managed on a rotational basis subject to operational needs and in consultation with the relevant ELG and line managers, until further notice. This also applies to staff above the age of 60 and/or with co-morbidities. To read about our University’s guidelines for the implementation of our Reintegration Plan for the return of students and staff to campuses and residences, click here. More information regarding our Reintegration Plan under Lockdown Level 1 and the resumption of on-campus activities such as sports, events and meetings will be communicated soon.
Ironically, this phase of reintegration coincides with the end of the third term. This serves as yet another reminder of how far we have come in navigating the COVID-19 storm and how focused and resolute we have been to completing the 2020 academic year. Under this new normal, our virtual classroom attendance has been high, and the success rate is better than it was previously. A well-deserved break to our students and academic staff. I hope you come back recharged and even more focused as we approach the final phase of the academic year.
I am, however, reminded that our students will undergo the last assessments for the third term when they return on the 28th of September 2020. 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 preparations of 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. For tips on how to cope with exam preparations, click here.
Our Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development (PsyCaD) is also on hand to offer assistance to students. This includes a walk-in service (no appointment necessary) at all our offices on the different campuses, individual counselling sessions as well as our 24-hour Crisis Line (082 054 1137). Staff may also approach the Human Resource Division which has comprehensive Employee Wellness programmes.
More good news this week is that our colleagues and students at the Arts & Culture and the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) won two awards at the prestigious Naledi Theatre Awards this past Sunday, 13 September 2020. We received the Best Theatre Set Design for our production, Metamorphosis and Best Lighting Design/Animations by Oliver Hauser. The FADA Interdisciplinary Theatre Programme has become the flagship of the Faculty and strives towards building unique and increasingly important skills, required for successful collaboration both in the arts and broader professional fields.
UJ Arts Academy alumnus Zimkhita Nyoka walked away with the Best Female Support/Featured Performance Award for her performance as Thozama in the State Theatre’s production XOVA. Zimkhita is a shining example of how the UJ Arts Academy students can simultaneously excel in their studies and the arts.
Today at noon, the last of our VC Campus Engagement sessions with staff takes place at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus (APK). Please click here to participate: https://bit.ly/2EcSyzN (recording available through the same link). It is important to participate in the conversations because they are organised to help both the University’s employees and Management to engage on important issues that may not otherwise be addressed speedily.
In my message last week, I indicated that our Independent Leaders and Coordinators of student organisations are currently gearing up for this year’s Student Representative Council (SRC) elections which take place between 07– 09 October 2020. Tomorrow, our prospective SRC leaders will be presenting their manifestos from 14:00, which will be simultaneously streamed on MS Teams for all four campuses. I urge all our students to participate in this important process and vote in large numbers – you are in charge of choosing the right leaders for your University! Please join through these links: Auckland Park Kingsway Campus; Auckland Park Bunting Road Campus, Doornfontein Campus; and Soweto Campus.
Between today and Sunday, UJ Sports and some of our staff members and students will be participating in the 2020 Virtual Spring Run in celebration of the International Day of University Sports which is held on the 20th of September annually. Staff and students will also show their support to victims and survivors of gender-based violence and raise awareness about the scourge of violence against women and children by recording their walk or run and sharing them on social media platforms. Most impressively, the UJ rowing Club aims to complete a 1035km distance, a long stretch between UJ and the coastal town of Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape. They started this campaign on 10 September 2020. I urge you to participate and show your support to this initiative.
Next week, on Thursday, 24 September 2020, South Africans will be celebrating Heritage Day. On this day, our Faculty of Humanities will launch the Centre for the Study of Race, Gender & Class (RGC). The launch event will be hosted in collaboration with the College of Business and Economics and the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture. The Centre, based at UJ, aims to create an important intellectual space for vibrant debate and critical interdisciplinary scholarship that is guided by an emancipatory agenda. Race and ethnic discrimination, gender oppressive practices, and class inequities persist despite decades of multi-culturalism and efforts to celebrate and institutionalise diversity and human rights. The RGC will be a globally competitive university-based Centre, framed by African realities, struggles, and complexities, and firmly orientated towards transformation, decolonisation and inclusivity.
Dr Bakari Sellers, a Senior Council who practises law with the Strom Law Firm, LLC, in Columbia, and a political commentator at CNN, will be the guest speaker. He also served on President Barack Obama’s South Carolina steering committee during the 2008 election and is widely considered to be a rising star within the Democratic Party and a leading voice for his generation. Please click this URL to join: https://zoom.us/j/94598042951
Lastly, as the President indicated, although we have made remarkable progress in flattening the COVID-19 curve, we are still in the midst of a deadly pandemic and a number of people are still being infected. As he put it, our greatest challenge now is to ensure that we do not experience a new wave in infections.
As such, 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 all times.
Have a great weekend and a restful week!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal