Dear UJ Community
I have been encouraged by the scenes of hundreds of teachers and other education personnel brimming with excitement while getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as the Department of Basic Education kick-started its vaccination roll-out programme on Wednesday. This phase is set to run for two weeks, until Thursday, 8 July 2021.
Education is among the sectors that have borne the brunt of the pandemic and the ramifications continue to be felt across many countries with no sign of abating. This has placed teachers on the front-line of the coronavirus battle. As far back as December 2020, UNESCO and the Education International (EI), the global federation of education unions, issued a call to governments and the international community to consider the vital importance of vaccinating teachers and school personnel.
Vaccinating teachers is no doubt an imperative that should not be delayed and an opportunity that should not be wasted, especially as provinces like Gauteng grapple with the third wave of COVID-19. The vaccination is not just an extra layer of protection for schools, but it is also an injection of hope for the higher education sector. Many of our academic and administrative staff have duties that require that they work from their workstations on campus and other University sites. We also have modules that require in-person contact provision, such as laboratory or clinical work, experiential learning, etc., on campus in contact mode. We anticipate that we will soon be in the next phase of the vaccination rollout.
We reiterate our call for our colleagues who are 60 years and older to get vaccinated for the virus as soon as possible. We are also encouraged by Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s announcement that vaccination will soon open to people between the ages of 50 and 59.
Once again, we remind you that we have a legal obligation, as a University, to ensure compliance with national health and safety regulations. It is the responsibility of line managers to make sure that staff members within their respective domains adhere to this. 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.
On a different note, June is Pride Month to celebrate the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ+) community. Sadly, this comes at a time we have seen a resurgence in incidents of hate crimes against the LGBTIQ+ community in parts of the country. According to the latest LGBTIQ+ People in South Africa report, individuals continue to experience discrimination and hate crimes within different communities. In celebration of Pride Month, our University’s Institutional Office for HIV/AIDS hosted an LGBTIQ+ conference yesterday, Thursday, 24 June 2021, to highlight strategies to curb crimes against this section of our community. Click here to read more about this.
This week, the world celebrated International Olympic Day – a month before the start of the Games in Japan! I took the opportunity to convey a message of support and well wishes to our 13 UJ athletes that will join Team SA at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. Best of luck to you all! UJ all the way!
Please join me in the latest VC Reading Group session today at 14:00 for a discussion of my latest recommended book, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. As Epstein reminds us, “It’s not true that you must specialize early and systematically move from point A to point B. Success can also involve a long, circuitous journey of learning, self-discovery and innovation. So, do not fret if you find it hard to stick to one thing.” Click here to join in the discussion.
Finally, our University will be on a mid-semester recess from today Friday, 25 June 2021, till Monday, 12 July 2021. We wish to remind our students to try and use the recess period to catch up on academic activities. The recess period will, in particular, be used to provide additional teaching and learning time for our first-year students. I also urge our academic staff and students who will be on recess to stay safe and adhere to the necessary health and safety protocols to protect themselves from the virus. I trust that you will all return re-energised and refocused on the tasks that lie ahead!
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. We also appeal to our staff and students to refrain from coming to campus if they experience any COVID-19 related symptoms.
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 at all times.
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg