[16 March] VC's Circular: COVID-19 Update

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Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela
Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela

In response to the global health emergency created by the rate of spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), on 15 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a National State of Disaster.  He further announced stringent measures to curb the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande further issued a statement in line with the President’s national announcement.

I will be meeting with the Minister as part of a sector engagement tomorrow morning, after which a further update will be released.

In line with the President’s directive, the following measures will be implemented with immediate effect.

  • All undergraduate face-to-face contact lectures, tests, tutorials and practicals will be suspended.  This does not include assignments.   Individual academic departments will make determinations on assignment deadlines and submissions.  There is an expectation that students will respond responsibly and keep pace with their academic programmes as directed by their lecturers. 
  • Postgraduate arrangements will in the main proceed, and students should liaise directly with their supervisors or HODs to discuss practical arrangements to stay productive. 
  • CHERTL will advise academic staff of ways in which it is able to support teaching staff to bridge their delivery to electronic platforms.
  • The Library Services staff is working on making additional materials available online.
  • The library and computer laboratories will remain open, but occupancy will be limited so as to ensure that people can keep an appropriate distance from each other (approximately 1.5 metres) while using these spaces.
  • Mechanisms to limit the number of people simultaneously using dining-halls are being investigated.
  • Hand sanitiser dispensers are being installed at strategic points across the campus, and all are encouraged to use them responsibly, cognisant of the fact that the ongoing supply of hand sanitiser has become very limited. 
  • Additional staff have been hired to ensure that bathrooms on the ground floors of buildings which do not have a backup water supplies are supplied with water on days that the municipality is unable to supply water. 
  • The University’s gym and indoor exercising areas will be closed with immediate effect.  People are encouraged to keep healthy by engaging in alternative  forms of exercising outside. 

These measures will be reviewed as and when new information becomes available. 

The University leadership and academic staff, with the support of all of the staff, are focussed on the preventative health of the University Community while ensuring that our students can complete a successful academic year. 

All members of the University are urged to take social distancing and all other protocols seriously.

The Coronavirus Response Task Team has created a dedicated webpage on the outbreak at https://www.ru.ac.za/cvrtt/, which includes important contact numbers and precautionary measures at the University.

I would also like to appeal to all members of our University and surrounding community to refrain from spreading unconfirmed information, rumours and panic.  Let us work together to combat this threat. 

We request all staff and students to remain calm as we address this unprecedented global challenge.  Working together we can and will beat the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). 



Sizwe Mabizela

Vice Chancellor, Rhodes University