Dear Staff and Students
We are almost at the end of 2020, a year that started like any other. This year being the beginning of a new decade seemed to promise big opportunities. When it started we were already aware of an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in Wuhan China, and yet none of us thought this year would bequeath us a pandemic of this magnitude; a pandemic that forced us to change the way we do things. Our key academic activities changed drastically as we made a transition to online platforms and remote learning and work. This came at a huge cost and human sacrifice. Although getting ourselves ready was no easy task, we now have guidelines and protocols to guide us as we learn to co-exist with the deadly COVID-19. Our duty remains to implement these if we are to beat this virus; preserve lives; secure our livelihoods and keep our university sustainable.
As we approach examinations time, we would like to thank you for your hard work, commitment, cooperation and maintaining calm. Most importantly, we thank you for making life-saving choices to protect yourselves and others. We are just unfortunate to enter this important period at the time when we are experiencing a resurgence and cluster outbreaks of COVID-19 cases in our town and our university. This resurgence is attributed to various reasons, which include:
- Callous disregard of health measures by those who have deliberately attended and continue to attend big events such as concerts and parties, which are confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to be super spreaders of COVID-19.
- Travelling to and from high risk areas.
- People who think COVID-19 has suddenly disappeared with the transition to Alert Level 1, and are therefore lowering their guard by not wearing face masks, failing to practise physical distancing and attending crowded events and night clubs.
The university has done everything in its power to prepare staff and students to co-exist with this virus and has taken disciplinary action against transgressors. The rest is left to individuals to exercise responsibility and care for self and others.
From March to 1 September 2020, the university had recorded 54 cases (48 staff and 6 students). Then we had no new infections for almost 7 weeks until 20 October when new cases emerged. We have now recorded a total of 72 new cases in this short period (20 Staff and 52 students). This brings the total number of cases since March to 126 (68 staff and 58 students). We note with great concern the spike in cases amongst our students over the past week.
In the past two weeks we have been working very closely with the Provincial Department of Health and Higher Health to respond to the resurgence of COVID-19 in the Sarah Baartman and Nelson Mandela Districts. On Wednesday 4 November 2020, the Department of Health and National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) dispatched two testing trucks with nurses to our university, where 130 students and staff were tested. Three residences have been placed under quarantine, while we trace all people who have been in contact with staff and students who have tested COVID-19 positive. Face-to-face meetings have been suspended with some exceptions highlighted in our previous communique. Faculties have been advised to do online assessments wherever possible. These are some of our response strategies that we have put in place as we continue to monitor the situation closely. More interventions are for this week.
Our residential services staff, Health Care Centre and Residential Operations are under immense pressure due to the increasing COVID-19 positive cases, and the demands that accompany quarantining of residences. We thank them for their patience. We thank everyone who embraced this new normal and became part of the much needed social solidarity. Sincere gratitude to all academic and support staff for the self-sacrifices you made to support the academic project.
Thank you to the outgoing SRC, whose term of office is comparable to no other. We thank you for your commitment and working hand-in-hand with the university in ensuring that all students had fair learning opportunities, and that none were left behind during an extremely difficult year. Your contribution was immeasurable. We congratulate the 2021 SRC and look forward to a fruitful 2021.
We wish all those who have been infected with COVID-19 speedy recovery. Our sincere condolences to those who have lost their loved ones. Our deepest sympathy to the Boma family and the university community for the passing of our respected colleague Mr Thembelani Boma.
It is not too late to exercise caution and uphold the simple non-pharmaceutical interventions of wearing a face-mask, sanitising or washing your hands with soap and water, maintaining physical distancing and avoiding crowded places.
We wish our students all the best during their exams. We call for calm and patience as we wrap up the 2020 academic year.
Dr ‘Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic and Student AffairsSource: The Office of the DVC