[31 August] Arrangements for more students to return to campus

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

Dear Rhodes Student

The last five months have been extraordinarily difficult and unsettling for many of us and in so many ways. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives in ways no one could have imagined or predicted.

It is now more than three months that we have been offering our course materials through remote multimodal platforms. In the face of daunting challenges posed by the worst global health crisis of our lifetime, many of our students have shown remarkable resilience, strength and agility. Like true leaders, they have embraced a ‘can-do attitude’ and have not allowed themselves to dwell on the limitations and uncertainties imposed by the current realities. They have embraced the challenges and opportunities of our times and have persisted with their studies in less than ideal conditions. I am deeply humbled and hugely inspired by the courage, determination and resolve that many of you have demonstrated in pursuit of your dreams, goals and aspirations.

Our academic and support staff, who are driven by their abiding commitment to the academic success and an holistic development and growth of their students have gone above and beyond their call of duty to support their students. We are all in their debt.

The University is now in the process of receiving the second cohort of students to campus guided by the risk-adjusted levels set by our National Government.

There will be a staggered return of students to campus and Makhanda in order to prevent a return of many students at one time.

Should you be in contact with other students who have not yet received a permit to return, please know that this is due to this controlled and phased-return of students. Return to campus will be by University invitation only. No student will be allowed to return to campus of their own accord, without first receiving a permit from the University. All returning students will be individually notified at the point at which the University is adequately prepared to receive them.

Students who are allowed back onto campus for specific programs requiring physical presence should be aware that their courses will not be presented in a face-to-face format. Returning students will not be able to engage in social activities, and will be required to abide by all of the health and physical distancing rules pertaining to the level for the Sarah Baartman region, as well as the Higher Health and institutional directives around the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be required to wear a face mask at all times in public, undergo a daily screening process using the Higher Health online system indicated on the permit, and enter the campus through one of the checkpoints.

Students who were already in on-campus residence accommodation prior to the commencement of the lockdown period will be admitted back into residence. Please contact your house warden should you have any questions in this regard.

Students who are unable to return to the campus at this stage will be catered for through the remote multimodal teaching and learning modality and provision of mobile data bundles within the best capacity of the institution to do so. This will apply should you not yet have been invited to return to the campus, or if you have been invited but are unable to return either because of travel or health restrictions. In the latter case, it will be important that you notify the University through the office of your specific Faculty (see list below), so that we can be sure that our ongoing academic arrangements cater, within reason, for your needs. Students whose immune system is compromised are particularly advised to engage with the University before returning.

At national Alert Level 2, you do not need a travel permit to travel within the borders of South Africa.

However, all COVID-19 national and institutional directives, regulations and protocols must still be strictly observed at all times. We expect voluntary and cooperative compliance with all measures to mitigate the transmission and spread of the virus. Any student who is unable or unwilling to comply with the prevention and mitigation measures intended to curb the spread of the virus is advised not to come on campus.

The attention of all students is drawn to the Framework to Manage the Return of Students to Campus which remains in force during Level 2 of the COVID-19 Lockdown.


This document is especially important for students travelling from outside of the Sarah Baartman district as it outlines requirements for students to undertake a screening process prior to leaving their current location. You may use the Higher Health mobile screening App and the online system indicated on the attached permit for this purpose, and you should proceed with travel only if the online system indicates that you are entirely symptom free. If the Higher Health pre-travel screening clears you, please send the screenshot of your results to your warden. If your screening indicates any contra-indications, it is recommended that you phone the NICD hotline number 0800 029 999 so that you can receive guidance on how to proceed. Alternatively, you should contact your doctor. All students will be required to self-quarantine for a period of 10 days upon arrival in Makhanda/Grahamstown or campus.

Students currently outside of the borders of South Africa are not able to return to the campus at this stage. It might be that you, as a student currently situated outside of the borders of South Africa, are receiving a permit and an invitation to return. Unfortunately, you will not be able to return at this stage.

The regulations gazetted by the Minister of Higher Education, Science & Innovation on 8 June 2020 emphasized that International students outside of the borders of the country will only be allowed back into the country when the risk-adjusted level determined by the South African government reaches Alert Level 1. If you fall into this category, please make sure that your Faculty or department knows about your situation. In the case of postgraduate students by thesis, please contact your supervisor.

Important Contact list

General queries about student return arrangements and requests for travel permits: returnquery@ru.ac.za

Degree specific queries, please contact your Faculty office:

For course specific queries, please contact your department, course coordinator, or specific lecturer.

General International Student queries: InternationalOffice@ru.ac.za

Postgraduate thesis students, please use your supervisor(s) as your first point of contact.

Queries about health, Covid-19 arrangements, and general student welfare issues: studentaffairs@ru.ac.za

All student queries should be emailed to returnquery@ru.ac.za.

Masters or Doctoral students undertaking a research thesis should consult their supervisor(s).

Much has been achieved, and at an incalculable economic and personal cost, to slow the transmission of the coronavirus. We cannot afford to lower our guard at this critical time and run the real risk of another upsurge in viral infections. With the lowering of the national alert level to Level 2, we are at our most vulnerable as some among us might think that the risk of infection has dissipated. Our national alert level may have been lowered to Level 2, but the threat of the viral infection is no lesser. Far from it, the virus still poses a deadly threat.

Let us all play our part to save lives and the 2020 academic year and ensure academic progress and success of our students.

Yours sincerely
Sizwe Mabizela,
Vice-Chancellor, Rhodes University