Dear UP Community
I trust you are staying strong during these extraordinary times. I know we are all experiencing anxiety because of the impact of the current situation on multiple areas of our lives. I hope we all try as best as we can to draw resilience from family, friends and peers while at the same time providing support wherever we can.
With the Government's recent announcement to move the country to Level 3, some of our students and staff will again be able to gain access to the University’s different campuses. While teaching and learning and coursework programmes will remain online for this semester, we have developed a plan that the Executive approved yesterday and which will be used in consultation with the Student Representative Council, organised labour at the University and all stakeholders to enable the phased return of some students and staff.
The University is currently doing everything it can to ensure that we continue with the academic programme despite the disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will continue to abide by the appropriate regulations while at the same time ensuring the health and well-being of our community.
In the phased plan, special priority will be given to students who are not able to access online learning to return to campus and private residences. The deans, directors and managers will communicate the details of the phased return to their respective students and staff in the next few days once the details have been worked out. If, after that, you need further information, please contact your Head of Department or your dean or director’s office.
This phased plan will allow us to resume some research activities, which were postponed, and some researchers, postgraduate students and final year students needing to work in research facilities will be able to do so. The deans are working on detailed research prioritisation schedules as well as plans to ensure everyone’s safety in laboratories and research centres. Postgraduate and final-year students who need residence accommodation in order to return to their research will be able to request assistance.
Special health and safety measures, such as the compulsory wearing of masks, screening at entrances, social distancing and the availability of sanitisers, have been put in place and more details will be communicated soon. A self-monitoring health assessment application, which will be made available online and on mobile phones, is also ready to be rolled out. We will communicate the details of the app in the next few days and we ask everyone to use it.
I’m pleased to say that despite a few glitches, we’ve had some positive feedback from students and staff members since we resumed teaching and learning online earlier this month. We have delivered approximately 2 000 loan laptops to students from lower-income or missing-middle households who do not have access to an Internet-enabled device. We have also provided 30GB of data to approximately 15 000 students to assist them with online tests and assessments.
For those students who are not able to connect online owing to a lack of electricity or an Internet connection, we have arranged the delivery of learning materials and are supporting them with telephone tutoring.
To the international students who are currently outside South Africa, I ask, if you haven’t done so already, that you contact your lecturer or Head of Department to make alternative arrangements, if you’re unable to continue with your studies online. We will do everything we can to provide you with support. I am also lobbying for a special dispensation for international students who had to leave the country to be allowed back to resume their studies under the appropriate level regulations.
I know that it has not been easy for you all and that this is an incredibly unusual situation that has presented us all with challenges we did not anticipate. I ask that you remain patient as we try our best to make sure that all students have access to study material and are not disadvantaged.
We care about the success and well-being of all our students and staff. For your health and emotional well-being, please reach out to the relevant support services. Visit the UP website for the contact details and to stay up to date with developments at your University.
Under level 3, we will all be able to again exercise at any time of the day. I urge you all to take full advantage of this. Exercise is important for mental and physical well-being and will make all of us a little stronger going forward.
Work together with us to help you make a success of this academic year amid the situation we all find ourselves in.
Take care of yourself.
Prof Tawana Kupe
Vice-Chancellor and Principal