19 August 2020
Dear UP community
I hope you are as well as can be expected during these trying, uncertain and anxious times, when life as we know it has been severely disrupted. It is the new unusual. I stand together with you as we navigate this ongoing situation. I believe in your resilience and tenacity, which will undoubtedly see you through.
With the second semester well underway, I trust that you are working hard towards completing the academic programme. I know it is not easy working and studying under these extraordinary circumstances. I’m confident that, working together and supporting each other, we will complete the 2020 academic year successfully.
By now you will be aware of the President’s announcement regarding the move to lockdown level 2. I am pleased that the country has made enough progress in our fight against the COVID-19 virus to allow us to welcome more students and staff back on campuses and into our residences. However, in line with the regulations governing the higher education sector, published by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation on 8 June 2020, only an additional 33% of students and staff will be permitted to return to the university under lockdown level 2, bringing the total to approximately 66%. While the increase in numbers is welcomed, the regulations, which prohibit the gathering of more than 50 people, unfortunately mean that we remain unable to resume contact classes, so we will therefore continue with online classes for this semester.
Returning to campus
Students who require access to laboratories and other facilities on campus in order to complete their courses will be prioritised to return to the University as long as they get permission from their respective faculties. The same applies to students who are experiencing ongoing difficulties with internet connectivity, who do not have the necessary access to internet-enabled devices, and those whose home environments are not conducive to studying. Students in these categories should make contact with their faculties as soon as possible to apply for permission and the necessary permits to return to campus. Once they have received approval from their faculties, students living in residences will be notified if they can also return to residence.
Staff members who are able to should continue to work from home and only go to the office if they need to support on-campus activities or their work requires them to work from campus. For those who are older than 60 and those with comorbidities, the recommendation is that you should continue to work from home and to keep safe. Please make the necessary arrangements with your line managers where required.
A healthy and safe environment at the University is dependent on everyone adhering to the prescribed health and safety regulations, including wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth, practising social distancing, washing your hands, observing coughing and sneezing etiquette, the daily completion of the self-assessment HealthCheck tool, and regular sanitising. All persons who return to campus are expected to support the University in protecting your health and the health of others by abiding by all the COVID-19 protocols that have been put in place.
I am also pleased to announce that we will again be providing those students who do not qualify to return to campus with additional data bundles and, where possible, will assist students who cannot afford an internet-enabled device, with a loan device. Please be on the lookout for the communication in this regard on the UP website and on clickUP.
I know that parents and students are concerned about study and residence fees. I fully understand the circumstances and empathise with everyone who is negatively affected by the economic situation. Times are hard, and livelihoods have been lost or are under threat. At this stage, the safety of students and staff is our priority, and we are currently doing everything we can to ensure their safe return. While only a certain number of students are allowed to return under the current lockdown measures, the University will continue to offer its courses online for the second semester. It is possible that this may continue into the 2021 calendar year, but it is too early to say, and will depend on government’s decision regarding the easing of the lockdown restrictions. The provision of online classes brings its own challenges, including incurring additional expenses. The University has already announced the extension of the deadline for payment of student accounts to the end of September. If students have been negatively affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic and they feel constrained by the situation, we suggest that they contact the University by sending an email to [email protected] to make financial arrangements. We will do everything we can to support you.
As soon as a full analysis of the financial situation, including negotiations with service providers, has been finalised and the University has clear time frames regarding the conclusion of the 2020 academic calendar, a decision on fee rebates will be taken. Any university sectoral agreements regarding rebates will be taken into consideration.
Thank you for your patience as we navigate through these uncertain times together. We will continue to update you with new developments and ask that you keep in touch with your faculties and departments. We also request that you regularly visit the UP website and social media platforms for updates.
Stay safe and take care of yourself.
Professor Tawana Kupe
Vice-Chancellor and Principal