Dear UJ Community,
Last night, as with much of our nation, I sat with bated breath awaiting the announcement of the cabinet reshuffle. The changes were sweeping ranging from a complete reorginisation of the security cluster, which was moved directly under the Presidency, to a change at the helm of the Finance ministry to the strategic appointment of ministers in portfolios that have seemed uncertain for quite some time. The unrest just a few weeks ago coupled with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state were trigger points, ushering in a shift in leadership. Over the last year, I have spent a great deal of time interrogating the concept of leadership against the challenges of the 21st century and the difficult decisions often needed in times of crisis. I was particularly intrigued to hear of the appointments of Dr Sydney Mufamadi and Minister Nkhensani Mmamoloko Kubayi. Dr Mufamadi, who is a director in our School of Public Management, Governance and Public Policy, was appointed as the National Security Advisor while Minister Kubayi, who is one of our PhD students, was appointed as the Minister of Human Settlements. Dr Mufamadi will be on secondment to the Presidency. I wish the cabinet well in their new positions and hope this marks a turning point for the nation.
At the University, it is heartening to see that almost without fail, each week brings its fair share of good news. Please join me in congratulating two units in the University Relations Division, which have done UJ proud. Not long after the news that UJ’s Facebook Page was placed amongst the top university pages in the world, the Marketing and Brand Management team this past week walked away with three silver, two gold and a special award at the MACE (Marketing, Advancement and Communication in Education) awards. The MACE Excellence Awards recognises and celebrates excellence, and the achievements of specialists and practitioners in marketing, communication and advancement in the higher education sector. In total, UJ walked away with six awards at the 2020 virtual awards ceremony. In the same week, UJFM took three awards at the annual Radio Awards. Congratulations to Dr Nolitha Vukuza (Senior Executive Director: University Relations, Student Affairs and UJ Sport) and her team for this outstanding achievement! Click here to read more about this.
I am once again reminded that our University staff continue to play an important role in the knowledge and skills development across various sectors of our society. This has not gone unnoticed. In this regard, I am thrilled to announce that the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs. Angie Motshekga, has appointed Dr Vukuza as a member of the 7th South African National Commission for UNESCO until 2024. This Commission was established by Cabinet in 1996 to promote UNESCO’s objectives with regard to education, science, culture, and communication and information, which are the organisation’s targeted fields of competence.
The Commission, through its Secretariat, facilitates the planning, execution and evaluation of UNESCO activities in South Africa, publicises such activities and stimulates public interest in them. In collaboration with relevant national departments, the National Commission actively participate in UNESCO’s activities pursued at national, regional and global levels. Congratulations on your appointment, Dr Vukuza, we are immensely proud of you! We wish you all the best in this important role.
Still on our staff playing an impactful role in society, Prof Adekeye Adebajo, Director of UJ’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation (IPATC), this past Friday, 30 July 2021, delivered the closing remarks at a webinar on the “20th Commemoration of the World Conference Against Racism: Reflections on Youth and Racism.” IPATC co-hosted this webinar in collaboration with South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The meeting reflected on the legacy of the Durban conference after two decades, examined the potential of youth to be agents of change, and also commemorated the 45th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprising. The webinar further laid a foundation for the forthcoming UN General Assembly Heads of State debate on Durban+20 in New York in September 2021. To read more about this, click here.
Earlier this week, our Faculty of Education introduced a virtual and augmented reality research hub to accelerate innovation in the education sphere. The new VARSTEME hub, one of Africa’s primary academic centres dedicated to virtual and augmented reality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning, is set to play a key role in educating the next generation of researchers and practitioners. Let us continue to drive the vision of the future agenda by living the 4IR values! Click here to read more about this.
As the vaccine rollout begins to gain pace in the country, naturally there is an appetite for more information about the vaccinations. A group of UJ academics made up of Prof Saurabh Sinha, Prof Refilwe Phaswana-Mafuya and Prof Bettine van Vuuren have penned an article of interest. This article provides a number of vaccination related learnings and the need to further vaccination education.
This coming Monday, 9 August 2021, marks National Women’s Day in South Africa, which commemorates the day in 1956 on which 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the Apartheid laws. August is also known as Women’s Month in South Africa, which is envisioned to empower, honour and celebrate the contributions of women in our society. Our Transformation Division invites you to a UJ Women’s Month Celebration special conversation with Prof Angina Parekh (Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic), today between 11:30 – 12:30pm. The event will be held under the theme, “Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future”. Click here to join the conversation.
We remind you to please inform us about your vaccinations status via the link: https://ulink.uj.ac.za/staffvac. Please enter the information after your first vaccination, and where relevant, update it after your second vaccination. The survey takes less than one minute. We use the numbers (and not your personal details), to inform us on the vaccination statistics of the UJ community. The statistics will guide us in our response to the COVID-19 situation and the implementation of our re-integration plans.
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. 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.
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.