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Vice-Chancellor Message – 5 March 2021

vice chancellor message

Dear UJ Community,

Each year during the start of the academic programme, universities face a myriad of challenges related to student registrations. As you would recall, the government reduced funding for the higher education sector last year in response to the volatile economic situation precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has tipped universities over the edge financially. Added to that, the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) appears to be buckling under the pressure of a contracted economy. The entity has already announced plans to cut funding for some academic programmes.

We recognise that NSFAS has not yet finalised funding for first time entering students and that this has presented challenges for qualifying students to register. The University is mindful of these concerns and is making every effort to provide support, within the limited fiscal environment. We have in recent days taken some decisions to assist them. We extended registrations for returning and senior students – first until 28 February 2021 and then again to this Sunday, 7 March 2021. We have also implemented temporary access to the UJ Learning Management System (i.e. Blackboard) for non-registered students until registrations close. This is to ensure that students can keep up with their academic activities while sorting out any possible financial issues in order to register.

For more information on 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.  For information on the NFSAS communique that was issued this week, please visit our University’s official social media pages @go2uj and https://www.facebook.com/go2uj/.

As you are undoubtedly aware, the COVID-19 restrictions have now been eased to Lockdown Alert Level 1 (from the ‘adjusted Alert Level 3). It is important to note that although 100% of our students and staff can return to campuses and their workstations, all teaching and learning will continue to remain online for the duration of the first semester. Only students enrolled for modules that require in person contact provision, such as laboratory or clinical work, experiential learning, etc., will be done on campus in contact mode, and in some instances assessments will be conducted on campus. Staff return is being managed on a rotational basis subject to the operational needs of their departments or divisions, in consultation with the relevant ELG and line managers, until further notice. This also applies to staff above the age of 60 and/or with co-morbidities, as well as other staff with co-morbidities.

Events and functions such as meetings, guest lectures and seminars, as well as sport and other recreational and entertainment activities are allowed on campus – subject to the standard event risk management processes and government’s Alert Level 1 regulations. As such, permission must first be sought with the CCC and our University Event Risk Manager, Mr. Conrad van der Horst. Event organisers can liaise with Mr. van der Horst (conradvdh@uj.ac.za or 011 559 7575) for related queries or additional information. To read more about our Business Continuity Plan, lease click here.

On a more positive note, I am pleased to announce that the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) has contributed over R8 million towards a postdoctoral research fellowship (PDRF) pilot programme. The programme was created by the NIHSS and UJ to support doctoral graduates in taking their academic or research career forward. This is a lifelong journey of mentorship we foresee at UJ, with PDRFs continuing their journey as visiting or virtual academics. Others may, of course, be appointed to permanent posts.

Still on matters of research, The Thinker – a ‘hybrid’ journal, publishing journalistic pieces with more academic articles – is making a call for papers to researchers and academics. Contributors can now opt to have their submissions peer reviewed. The publication welcomes Africa-centred articles from diverse perspectives, in order to enrich knowledge of the continent as well as highlight issues affecting the continent. Submissions are due on 15 April 2021. For more information on this, please email the editor, Ronit Frenkel at ronitf@uj.ac.za. You may view the latest issue here: https://journals.uj.ac.za/index.php/The_Thinker/issue/view/43/43

Our students in the College and Business Economics (CBE) School of Economics who were finalists at the Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition finals were victorious. The competition was held virtually last week. Ms. Felicia Mashimbye won first prize in the postgraduate category, while Ms. Suvira Singh won third prize in the undergraduate category. Sincere gratitude to the Economics@UJ Budget Speech team for their commendable work in getting our students ready for the competition. Siyaziqhenya! Re ema le motlotlo! Ons staan trots! We stand proud! For more information, visit https://www.budgetspeechcompetition.co.za.

The University Relations’ Marketing and Brand Team have highlighted the stories of a few lecturers and senior students in the Faculty of Education who came together at the start of COVID-19 lockdowns to establish the brand-new UJ Scratch Coding Club. The club uses technology to advance the careers of UJ’s student teachers and, in turn, the experiences of their students. To learn more about this, please click here.

As we continue to wage a war against the scourge of gender-based violence, a significant high court development has come to my attention. The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg sentenced Dumisani Mkhwanazi – who was in December 2020 found guilty of killing our University student, Palesa Madiba, in 2013 – to an effective 31 years in jail. This has been a long and gruelling seven year journey. As the Judge said, there is an urgent need for a thorough response across the whole South African society to tackle the root causes of the epidemic of sexual violence. May Palesa’s soul rest in peace. My deepest sympathies go out to her friends and family.

On Wednesday, 3 March 202, Prof Nicola Wagner, the Director of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Integrated Mineral and Energy Resource Analysis (DSI-NRF CIMERA), delivered her professorial inauguration address titled The Significance of Coal beyond Electricity Generation. This is a pertinent South African issue and Prof Wagner offered invaluable insight.

Lastly, we begin our virtual Vice-Chancellor Campus Engagements across our four campuses this semester next week. The first session, for all Auckland Park Bunting Road Campus staff, is scheduled for this coming Tuesday, 9 March 2021, between 12:00 and 13:30. Please click here to join .

It is recommended that staff join at least 5-10 minutes prior to commencement. Staff members who are unable to attend the online live event can come to venue Block F Red 5 on Bunting Road Campus. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 50 people will be allowed to attend in person and this will be on a first come first serve basis. If there are any specific issues you would like to have addressed or if you have a particular question, please send an email to events@uj.ac.za.

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.

Ndza khensa, Kea leboga, thank you!

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg

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