Dear UJ Community
Yesterday, as I was switching between radio stations for the best offering of the latest news, I stumbled on an animated debate about the government’s ongoing vaccination programme. Interestingly, this came moments after Cabinet announced that people who are 18 years and older will be eligible to get their COVID-19 vaccinations from today, as part of the plan to increase the vaccination rollout programme. I urge our students to take advantage of this opportunity and register for vaccination. More information on this will be communicated soon.
I was pleased that those who held a pessimistic view about vaccination were drowned out, as they could not sustain their claims. The views expressing vaccine hesitancy – neither based on research or science – were not devoid of the usual misinformation about COVID-19. The proliferation of fake news about COVID-19 and the vaccinations has been flagged as infodemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).
As the WHO puts it, we face the challenge of an overabundance of information related to the virus, some of which may be false and potentially harmful. “Inaccurate information spreads widely and at speed, making it more difficult for the public to identify verified facts and advice from trusted sources.” It is clear that fake news, especially on social media platforms, fuels vaccine hesitancy, which is a growing threat in fighting this pandemic.
In this regard, it is pleasing to see that our experts at our University have been contributing towards efforts to debunk the myths about vaccination. Recently Prof. Saurabh Sinha (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation), Prof Refilwe Phaswana-Mafuya (Professor of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences) and Prof Bettine van Vuuren (Senior Director: Strategic Initiatives and Administration) penned an interesting article about how vaccinations help to protect the overwhelming majority of the population and are an absolute requirement for breaking the Covid-19 transmission chain. I urge you to read it if you may have missed it.
Still on COVID-19, a cruel marker of the pandemic has been the sheer and often unabating grief we have had to weather. Next week on Thursday, 26 August 2021, our University will hold a virtual memorial service to pay homage to our colleagues, friends and students who have passed away between September 2019 and this year. The memorial service will start at 10:00, and I invite you and your family to join this important event. Please log in 5-10 minutes before the event starts by clicking here.
This week, I had the opportunity to welcome Tembi Tichaawa to the UJ Professorship. He delivered his professorial inauguration lecture that highlighted the importance of quality local tourism research to grow the sector in Africa. Welcome Professor Tichaawa, I trust that your insights will enrich the University and the broader public as you embark on this new journey.
I am thrilled to announce that our University is making exceptional strides in its Global Excellence and Stature (GES4.0) strategy, as underpinned by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). We are now in a unique position to offer two 100% free fully online courses (MOOCs) to the public. The first course, developed by the Division of Academic Development and Support (ADS), covers what Artificial Intelligence (AI) is, what it can do, how it’s used and some of its ethical and productivity-related implications.
In addition to the introductory MOOCs on AI in the 4IR, UJ also offers a free and fully online MOOC called African Insights. This course introduces students to intellectual traditions and debates in Africa. These programmes are exciting and relevant, and students are encouraged to complete both during the duration of the formal programme for which they are registered. Members of the public also have the opportunity to enroll, for free. There are no entry requirements or classes to attend, all assessments are in the form of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and a digital certificate will be issued on successful completion.
Lastly, with regards to the VC Virtual Reading Group next week on Friday, 27 August 2021 at the usual time of 14:00, I urge you to read my chosen book, Noise by Cass Sunstein, by Daniel Kahneman and Olivier Sibony. The book has received rave reviews, including by Adam Grant, the author of Think Again and the host of the TED podcast WorkLife. As he explains, “The gold standard for a behavioural science book offers novel insights, rigorous evidence, engaging writing, and practical applications. It’s rare for a book to cover more than two of those bases, but Noise rounds all four—it’s a home run. Get ready for some of the world’s greatest minds to help you rethink how you evaluate people, make decisions, and solve problems.” Click here to join in the conversation.
There are many other important events happening at our University over the coming weeks. Please be on the lookout for circulars and our social media platforms to keep track and join in the conversations.
Please inform us about your vaccinations status via the link: https://ulink.uj.ac.za/staffvac. Enter the information after your first vaccination, and where relevant, update it after your second vaccination. The survey takes less than one minute. We use the numbers (and not your personal details), to inform us on the vaccination statistics of the UJ community. The statistics will guide us in our response to the COVID-19 situation and the implementation of our re-integration plans.
Cabinet yesterday approved keeping the country on the COVID-19 Adjusted Level 3 lockdown. 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. To do this, click on this link https://ulink.uj.ac.za/views/staff/StaffVaccineDisclosure1
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/coronavirus/. 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