Dear UJ Community
Has the internet – one of the world’s greatest inventions, which provides ordinary people with services and opportunities that were once reserved for only the rich and powerful – become a failed state? Is it now a place of chaos, where people spread misinformation, disinformation and fake news, as some writers have argued?
This is what I was left to ponder after several of our students earlier this week took to social media to express what they said were their frustrations with the University’s academic registration process. In a sustained flurry of tweets lasting over 12 hours, the students accused the University of blocking them from registering for the 2021 academic year. They cited the Acknowledgement of Debt (AOD) that they are required to sign before they can register. This portrayed the University as uncaring and indifferent to the challenges facing its current and prospective students, financial or otherwise.
We could have chosen to ignore the tweets and let them die down, but we cannot look away as a caring and responsible university. Firstly, it is worth noting that most of the affected students are those who are funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). This is not a new phenomenon. Each year, during the registration period, we deal with the same matter because the University does not timeously receive funding from NSFAS. Considering that this is an issue affecting all universities in South Africa, it is curious that it was only our students who resorted to such accusations.
However, as a responsive University, we have always put measures in place to assist students to register and successfully pursue their studies. These include, but are not limited to:
- NSFAS students can register without any requirement of upfront payment once the University receives the list of funded students.
- Returning NSFAS students who, for one reason or another, owe the University money from previous years, may also register without upfront payment.
- These students are only required to acknowledge that they are indeed aware of the money they owe the University.
- Furthermore, for students who are performing well academically but do not have NSFAS or funds for registration (meaning they cannot afford to pay registration fee as per the set criteria), the University has created a fund called the SRC Trust Fund to assist them with registration fees. This fund has been in existence since the inception of the University of Johannesburg.
Therefore, any views that seek to portray the University as uncaring are spurious and disingenuous, and at worst, malicious. As already communicated, the University encourages current and prospective students who faces challenges with registration to contact Student Finance at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more about this, and other information such as bursaries and SRC Trust Fund, click here.
Despite this, as we approach the start of the academic programme, we are encouraged to see that registrations for our returning students are progressing well. So far, more than 40% of our students have registered for the 2021 academic year. We expect this number to increase in the coming week, ahead of the start of our academic activities on 15 February 2021. We also look forward to welcoming first-year students, after the release of the matric results on 23 February 2021. For more information about this as well as details for students’ return to residences, click here.
Still on student matters, please join me in congratulating Ms Gifty Efua Koufie, an international student in the School of Tourism and Hospitality (STH), who will represent the STH as a global finalist in the Young Talents Programme at the World Tourism Forum Lucerne in Andermatt, Switzerland, in April 2021. Ms Koufie is pursuing a Master’s in Tourism and Hospitality, under the supervision of Dr Hema Kesa. She was selected as a finalist after passing all three rounds of a rigid selection process. Her research explores “The use of nutrition-related mobile apps in addressing non-communicable health disorders and facilitating healthier lifestyles”. Click here to read more about this. Well done Ms. Koufie, and all the best in the finals!
Our University continues to host events that contribute towards knowledge and skills development and to shape society in a positive and meaningful way. Building on last year’s highly subscribed In Conversation with the Minister webinar series, the Johannesburg Business School Centre for Entrepreneurship (JBSCE) will host a webinar with the Minister of Small Business Development Hon. Khumbudzo Ntshavheni. The webinar, scheduled for next week Friday, 12 February 2021, will be anchored to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 11 February 2021.
Minister Ntshavheni is expected to discuss the plans and initiatives of the Department of Small Business Development in response to the commitments made by the State President, H.E Cyril Ramaphosa, in the SONA. The minister will outline the business opportunities available for SMMEs to contribute meaningfully to the South African economy. This webinar is not to be missed, especially for small and medium business owners, SMME development associations or organisations seeking to enhance their access to market opportunities. To register, click here
Finally, I will resume the VC Reading Group sessions on 19 February 2021 beginning with The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber, a German sociologist, economist, and politician. This book is his best-known and most controversial work, and it remains to this day a powerful and fascinating read. In fact, it is considered the most informed work ever written on the social effects of advanced capitalism. Click here and join in the conversation.
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 social distancing (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all times.
Have a great weekend and take care!
Thank you and take care!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg