Dear UJ Community
Earlier this week, as I watched the Minister of Finance, Hon. Tito Mboweni deliver the 2021 Budget Speech, I could not help thinking about the situation at our University. My mind kept shifting to UJ’s de facto ‘Minister of Finance’, the Chief Financial Officer Ms. Nolwazi Mamorare, and her team. I thought about the impressive balancing act they have undertaken to keep our University afloat, given the COVID-19 choppy waters we are sailing in.
Our various faculties and departments can attest to this, because of the budget cuts and austerity measures they have had to operate under, as we seek to lessen the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on our University and maintain a Business Continuity Plan. Just as the Minister used the analogy of the scenic R71 road that meanders through the misty mountains of Magoebaskloof, navigating the challenges of a tight but sound budget is an intricate process that requires us to walk the proverbial tightrope and make sacrifices, personally and collectively.
This challenging context was perhaps underlined by the fact that Minister Mboweni did not immediately announce any funding for the higher education sector. He only stated that the “government remains committed to ensuring that deserving students are supported through higher education (and that) the ‘National Treasury is working with the Department of Higher Education and Training to work on policy and funding options that will be detailed in the MTBPS (Medium Term Budget Policy Statement)’. And so, we wait – as we continue to do more with less. As the African saying goes, “the usefulness of a well is known when it dries up”.
Lest we forget; the Budget Speech came against the backdrop of Statistics SA’s latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey, painting yet another grim picture of the country’s unemployment rate. As a University, we are acutely aware of the predicament that many of our people find themselves. It was against this context that last week we announced a further extension of registrations for returning and senior students until this coming Sunday, 28 February 2021.
We also 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 can keep up with their academic activities while sorting out any possible financial issues in order to register.
Still on matters of enrolments, we opened registrations for first-year students this week on Tuesday, 23 February, after the release of the Grade 12 results. For more on this, as well as details on the start of academic activities for first-year students and the 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, www.uj.ac.za for this information.
Let us now pause to celebrate excellence. I am thrilled to announce that Professor Mouri Hassina, a prominent geologist, has been selected as one of 25 African women scientists to be profiled in the United Nations’ high-quality book. The publication aims to establish the legitimacy and prestige of women scientists within the African and global research and development (R&D) communities. Prof. Mouri will participate in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) ‘Championing the Decade of Action’ initiative, which aims to recognise the importance of science, technology and innovation (STI) in tackling the major challenges confronting the continent. To read more about her, please click here. Prof. Mouri, thank you for flying the UJ flag high!
In an exciting move for our University, we have appointed Dr Randall Carolissen as Dean of the Johannesburg Business School (JBS). He takes over from Professor Lyal White, who has left the University to pursue other interests. Dr Carolissen is a decorated professional with an illustrious career outside of academia, having had a stint as the former group executive at the South Africa Revenue Services (SARS) and administrator of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). His appointment is in line with our goal to provide relevant, practical knowledge and skills for businesses as we confront the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). It is also in keeping with JBS’s plans to attract learners from South Africa and Africa, with redesigned modules and learning material, and an exciting MBA programme, offered both in contact and online modes.
Another exciting appointment is that of Prof Wesahl Domingo as the new Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law. She takes over from Prof Letlhokwa Mpedi, who was appointed as DVC: Academic Designate from 01 January 2021. Prof Domingo is the newly elected President of the South Africa Law Deans’ Association, and a former Associate Professor at the Oliver Schreiner School of Law at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), where she taught for more than 18 years. Under her leadership, the Faculty will interrogate the intersection between law and 4IR. Prof Domingo and Dr Carolissen will assume their duties on 1 March 2021. Welcome to the UJ family, Prof Domingo and Dr Carolissen!
Lastly, with regards to the VC Reading Group, please join me for a webinar discussion on my latest book, Leading in the 21st Century – The Call for a New Type of African Leader today at 14:00. The webinar will be hosted by Tracey McDonald Publishers, in collaboration with the UJ Library. The Minister of Tourism, Hon. Nkhensani Kubayi- Ngubane will be the discussant. Click on this zoom link to join in the discussion https://zoom.us/s/97470821303
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 (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all times.
Ndo livhuwa, enkosi, baie dankie.
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.