Vice-Chancellor Message – 19 February 2021

vice chancellor message

Dear UJ Community

Many of our colleagues saw their children who attend public schools returning to their classrooms this week, after more than two months of being at home. However, unlike typical first days back, there were no hugs and squeals as anxiety over the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic lurked around every corner. Just like last year, schools reopened with precautions and have maintained staggered rotational shifts in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.

Similarly, at our University, only students in programmes or modules that require in-person contact provisioning – such as laboratory work, clinical placements, experiential learning, etc., – returned to campus on Monday, 15 February 2021, when academic activities resumed for returning and senior students. For all other students, remote teaching and learning will continue with our support. This is because the current COVID-19 ‘Adjustable’ Lockdown Alert Level 3 necessitates that teaching and learning continue to remain online for the duration of the semester.

Registrations for returning and senior students have been extended until the 28th of February 2021. For first-year students, registrations will start on Tuesday, 23 February 2021, after the release of the Grade 12 results. We have, in the interim, implemented temporary access to the UJ Learning Management System (i.e, Blackboard) for non-registered students until registrations close (on 28 February 2021). This is to ensure that students are able to keep up with their academic activities while sorting out any possible financial issues in order to register. Academic activities for first-year students will start on 8 March 2021.

For more on this, as well as comprehensive online study support services for new and returning students, please click here for the UJ COVID-19 Update shared with the University community recently. You may also visit our website, for this information.

As we continue to navigate lockdown restrictions, it was heartening to see State President, H.E Cyril Ramaphosa and the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize being among the first people to receive the COVID-19 Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week. As you probably know by now, they were vaccinated along with a group of health workers at the Khayelitsha District Hospital in Cape Town this past Wednesday, in what has kicked off the largest vaccination drive in the country’s history.

This came against amidst a great deal of clamour against the vaccines on social media. It appears from these conversations that there is a limited understanding of the science of vaccines by some in our country. Science is neither a popular nor an ideological contest; so, let us allow the experts to lead. In this regard, I wish to remind you that the act of reading and the act of comprehending what we read are two very different things.

In the spirit of this, please join me today, Friday, 19 February 2021, for the first VC Reading Group session, at 14:00. My first recommended book for this year is The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber, a German sociologist, economist, and politician. This is Weber’s best-known and most controversial work, which remains to this day a powerful and fascinating read. It is also considered the most informed work ever written on the social effects of advanced capitalism. Click here to join the conversation

Before that, from 11:00 to 12:15, the UJ School of Consumer Intelligence and Information Systems (College of Business and Economics) and the Africa Centre for Evidence, in collaboration with the UJ Library, will host an online discussion under the topic, Truth or Conspiracy- Navigating the Internet during a Pandemic. The discussion is part of a series of events to discuss how fake news is changing our world and how we can discern between what is real and what is not in order to tease out some the problems with current mainstream conspiracy theories.

Next week on Tuesday, 23 February 2021 from 12:30 to 14:00, Data Science Across Disciplines (DSAD), a research group in the Institute for the Future of Knowledge (IFK), will host a webinar entitled, A High-Level Overview of the Applications of Deep Learning-Based Forecasting in Finance. A brief description of applications such as asset pricing in portfolio management, fraud and anomaly detection, risk prediction and data-driven financial process optimisation will be among the topics covered. Professor Terence van Zyl, an NRF-rated scientist who holds the Nedbank Research and Innovation Chair at our University’s Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS), will be the speaker. To join the discussion, click here

Later in the week, on Thursday, 25 February 2021 from 14:00 to15:30, our Faculty of Humanities and the UJ Library will host a virtual panel discussion entitled Civil Society as Agents of Change in Innovation in Africa. The webinar will explore the importance of the media and civil society organisations in Africa in the face of COVID-19 and the socio-economic challenges we face.

Prof Kammila Naidoo, the Executive Dean in the Faculty of Humanities will be the panel chair and will be joined by Dr Khabele Matlosa (Director: Political Affairs at the African Union), and Mr Emmanuel Bosah (Programme Manager: Social Cohesion, Stabilisation and Reintegration, Neem Foundation), among other speakers. The webinar is part of a larger conference on good governance, participatory democracy and social justice, that will take place in August, where I will be among the speakers, alongside other officials from the continent. To register, click here

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: We appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing ( at all times.

Enkosi, kea leboga, baie dankie.

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

University of Johannesburg

Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.

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