ACADEMIC YEAR UPDATE

24 April 2020

Dear Students,

  1. We are in the 4th month since the World Health Organization declared the severe respiratory corona virus (Covid- 19) a pandemic. In the intervening period more than two and a half million people were infected all over the world, and more than hundred seventy thousand have died. Sadly, both these statistics keep rising by the day. These are staggering and scary figures, the likes of which have never been seen in the world for over a hundred years.  All these point to the deadly nature of the virus.
  2. As we are all aware, South Africa has not been spared from this unfolding horror. The countrywide lockdown is meant to mitigate against a rapid spread of the Corona virus, as this would devastate our nation. Four weeks now into the lockdown, the country is none-the-wiser on how the pandemic will progress. Current epidemiological models suggest strongly that the pandemic is expected to peak in the months of June and July, with the effects felt well into September 2020.
  3. This grim picture unfortunately means that we have to contend with a few inescapable realities, and most notably the following:
  • There is very little prospect of the University of Zululand re-opening any time soon. We should thus all be preparing ourselves for a long stay at home, and wait for guidance from government regarding the national management of the pandemic going forward. This suggests that the suspension of the lockdown will not mean that students will return to university. Rather, the university will pronounce on a phase-in approach as deemed fit for our context.

 

  • We are inevitably therefore compelled to explore alternative methods of teaching and learning, much as is the case with other institutions, if we are to save the 2020 academic year.
  1. Whilst our contingency plans follow the sectoral approach as agreed on by all other universities, we have however adapted our approach to suit our unique circumstances as an institution.
  2. The learning and teaching contingency plan is guided by the following principles:
  • The university shall make a concerted endeavour to complete the academic year 2020 for all students – there is a possibility that the completion could be extended to year 2021.
  • In seeking to make provision for the unfolding reality, the University has been hard at work in ramping up the e-learning provision capability. In this regard, the University is alive to the fact that our students’ online participation rate was low at the start. In this regard, we are however encouraged by the fact that we have since noted an increase in the online traffic. We appreciate those who are participating in the online teaching and learning program.
  • We also wish to acknowledge the fact that the lack of participation for some students is due in part to the fact that they lack the necessary gadgets, and that some are located in areas of the country with very poor connectivity.

 

  • The university is mindful of the disparities among our students’ socio-economic backgrounds. Thus, all reasonable steps are being taken to ensure that we cater for the needs of the different categories of students, including students with disabilities. To this end, various strategies will be explored, including the use of print media, USBs, etc.
  • A flexible teaching and learning approach shall be adopted which includes, but is not restricted to, online platforms.
  • A varied and phased approach to assessments will be implemented, which takes account of the specificities of each learning discipline.
  • Faculties will provide remedial classes and offer opportunities to students who may have been prejudiced by the lack of resources, to catch up on lost time; and
  • Every faculty and every lecturer will adopt an approach that is sensitive and aligned to the values of the university.

ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE UNIVERSITY MANAGEMENT