In previous communiques, the University had indicated that it was preparing itself for the return to campus of students as allowed under the Level 3 Lockdown government regulations. This process has already started with the return of final year students in Nursing Science.
The University wishes to reiterate that, while it is committed to the return of optimal numbers of students to campus, this process must however be guided by the prevailing national guidelines and realities.
In recent weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a new and dangerous turn. The number of recorded daily infections, which previously came in hundreds, now feature in multiple thousands. All indications are that the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. The Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, in his observation of the situation remarked that the country is “riding right into the storm whose devastating impact is expected to peak during the cold winter months”.
As per the stipulations of the Health and Safety Protocols, the University was recently forced to close two administrative divisions after staff members tested positive for the virus. Staff members belonging to the two divisions have had to be isolated and work from home. They have also been encouraged to go for medical tests. These are the realities that Management must confront when deciding on a phased approach to the return of students.
In a meeting held on Tuesday 7th of July 2020, University Management working with the Deans proceeded to determine the ideal numbers of students that can return to campus in the near future. The resolution reached in this regard was that, given the progression of the pandemic and the need to safeguard the life and safety of students and staff, only those students qualifying for special circumstances will be prioritized for the immediate phase-in process.
Accordingly, the following categories of students were identified as qualifying to return to campus:
- 30 final year B.Com (MIS) students, to return during July 2020, due to their need for specialised software and a practical online assignment and assessments;
- Postgraduate students in FCAL who require specialised software packages only available on campus, including econometric software and big data sets;
- SAICA Interns in the FCAL;
- Postgraduate students who are in the final phases of their laboratory experiments in the departments of Agriculture, Biochemistry and Microbiology, Botany, Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Computer Science, Physics and Zoology.
All the students that are covered by this concession shall receive individual communication that state the conditions and obligations attached to their return, as well as travel permits. Compliance with safety and health protocols shall be non-negotiable at all times.
Multi-modal Teaching & Learning
The rest of the students will continue to receive teaching and learning through multi-modal platforms that have been established. We commend those students that have collected the learning material that had been packaged and distributed by their faculties. In doing so, these students have taken their own future in their hands.
The University has already purchased laptops for qualifying students. Unfortunately, as a result of the global character of the pandemic, the demand for Laptops far exceeds the combined manufacturing capacity of all OEM’s internationally. Suppliers have however assured the University that they are taking every measure possible to ensure that these laptops are speedily delivered. We have been alerted that we should expect delivery of the laptops towards the end of the month. Unfortunately, this is beyond our control.
The University will continue to monitor the progression of the pandemic and to strive to find creative ways of saving the academic year without compromising and sacrificing the lives of both staff and students.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE UNIVERSITY MANAGEMENT