Dear UJ Community,
This week, myself and other members of the Management Executive Committee (MEC) had the opportunity to report on recent developments and other matters related to our University at a meeting with the Senior Leadership Group (SLG) and invitees. Convened under the topic “Reimagining the new ‘normal’”, the meeting reflected on issues such as renewable energy, and the recent Council of Higher Education (CHE) audit.
Understandably, in relation to renewable energy, the issue of power outages at the Soweto Campus (SWC) dominated discussions. This is because of the impact of the power cuts on academic activities and students life. As we explained, our Soweto Campus is located in one of the areas that have been hard-hit by the theft of electricity cables. And as you would know, this has become a national crisis with serious implications for the country’s economy and security.
More disturbing are the acts of intimidation on technicians from City Power, the City of Johannesburg’s power supply entity, during repairs to stolen cable sites. As a contingency measure, the University has been supplying backup generator power. At least five generators have been made available to provide power to academic and support/administrative facilities as well as student residences. It is important to note that generators can only be run for maximum period of time a day if they are to be safe.
Just like in other campuses, we have also provided solar power at SWC, and we plan to increase capacity. As we continue to explore other measures to fast-track our efforts to have maximum possible power on our campuses, we urge staff and students to remain patient. We are confident that just like the manner we weathered the COVID-19 storm during the last two years, we will be able to overcome this challenge, and we look into the future with a sense of optimism.
The good news this week is that Hassina Mouri, a Professor in Medical Geology at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has been awarded the UNESCO Chair on Medical Geology in Africa. This is the first time in the history of the UNESCO Chairs programme to award a chair in Medical Geology and with a focus on Africa. This is indeed very encouraging for our efforts to develop Medical Geology further, especially in Africa.
Medical Geology is an emerging field which has a great potential to becoming a very important field of research in future given its multi, cross and inter-disciplinary nature and strong alignment with most of the UN SDGs. Last year, Prof Mouri became the first African female elected as the Vice President (2020-2024) for the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), one of the world’s largest scientific organisations.
You might recall that I mentioned on this platform that several of our staff members had been nominated for the 2021/2022 NSTF-South32 Awards. Please join me in congratulating the Mining Positron Emission Tomography Research Group (MinPET), led by Prof Simon Connell, for being short-listed as a finalist in the Innovation Award Corporate Organisation and the Special Annual Theme categories. Joining Prof Connell are the following finalists:
- Prof Nonhlangabezo Mabuba (Engineering Research Capacity Development Award),
- Prof Omotayo Arotiba (NSTF-Water Research Commission and TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher) and,
- Dr Bonathile Makhubela (TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Emerging Researcher, Green Economy and the Special Annual Theme)
The awards, known as the Oscars of Science, recognise excellence and outstanding contributions to science, engineering, and technology (SET) and innovation in South Africa. They are the largest, most comprehensive, and sought-after national awards of their kind in South Africa. Given the competition, being a finalist is a major accomplishment. Well done everyone!
This week, I also had the privilege to pay tribute to the late national poet laureate Professor Keorapetse Kgositsile. Popularly known as Bra Willie, Kgosietsile inspired people to contribute to efforts to positively change the world through the arts. It is thus an honour to announce that the theatre at the Kingsway campus will from now on be known as the Keorapetse Kgositsile Theatre.
On a slightly different note, I am pleased that UJ will migrating the student email account from the current G-Mail platform to Microsoft Outlook (Office 365) this coming month (June 2022). This initiative is aimed at improving service delivery and to allow students to receive the benefits associated with Microsoft Outlook. Further details regarding this exciting transition will be communicated.
On COVID-19 matters, I wish to remind you that we have completed the revision of our COVID-19 workplace risk assessment study. The results of this study are being analysed and will inform us in dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 related challenges going forward. However, I have been informed that there are a few staff and students who are still not compliant with the UJ Mandatory Vaccination Policy. We rely on the leadership of the line managers to ensure compliance within their domains, including the recording of the weekly negative PCR test results where applicable.
We thus reiterate our call for employees and students who are yet to be compliant with our University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy to do so. If you have been vaccinated and have not uploaded your vaccination certificate, please do so on https://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac. To read more about this, as well as information on assistance for students and postdoctoral research fellows with difficulty in submitting their vaccination certificates, click http://www.uj.ac.za/covid-19. You may also visit the UJ website www.uj.ac.za.
Lastly, the UJ Chair of Council Mr Mike Teke invites you to his third virtual recommended book read next week on Friday, 3 June 2022, at the usual time of 14h00 (CAT). His recommended book is Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia. Ikigai means “Life to be worthwhile” or “Purposeful Life.” Click here and join in the conversation: https://zoom.us/s/94152733698
As usual, we appeal to all to adhere to other 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, thank you!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.