Dear Rhodes University graduand
I trust that you and your family are well and that you can appreciate the importance of placing our country under a nationwide 21-day lockdown. It is intended to avert a human catastrophe that would unfold were such drastic measures not taken to curb the transmission of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Prior to the escalation of the spread of the virus, we were working full steam preparing for our graduation ceremonies which had been scheduled for 02-04 April 2020. We so much looked forward to celebrating you and your accomplishment. I am certain that you, your family and friends were equally excited and looking forward to your graduation ceremony. You must, no doubt, have been looking forward to walking across the stage in your academic gown and with your hood over your arm for the Chancellor, Justice Lex Mpati, to tap your head with his folded round cap and the Registrar to hood you.
I can imagine the disappointment you must have felt when the University Leadership took the difficult decision to postpone the graduation ceremony indefinitely. This decision was not taken lightly. It was taken in the best interests of the health and wellbeing of you, your family and the rest of our society. We were advised by our government and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) that the risk of the transmission of the coronavirus in a confined space with large numbers of people sitting in close proximity to one another was far too great.
While it is not necessary for you to attend a graduation ceremony in order to graduate, the symbolism and significance of publicly marking and celebrating this major personal milestone in your life can never be taken for granted. In particular, those who are first generation graduates in their families and those graduating for the first time deserve special recognition and acknowledgement. In the meantime, you will receive the digital image of your parchment which you can use in your job applications. In order to comply with the prescripts of our Institutional Statute, we are making arrangements for the Chancellor to confer your degree or award your diploma/certificate in absentia.
We are committed to celebrating you and your hard-earned achievement at some future date when the risk associated with this global pandemic shall have subsided. While we cannot commit to any specific date at the moment as no one can predict how long the threat of the COVID-19 will last, we will keep you updated as the plans develop.
In the meantime, I encourage you to observe all the protocols and regulations that have been announced by our President and his cabinet to curb the spread of COVID-19. It is our individual and collective responsibility to reduce the spread of the virus. As a graduate of the University “where leaders learn,” I urge you to play your part in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Right now, Rhodes University is using its expertise and skills in various areas to contribute to the combating of the spread of the COVID-19 disease. Our teams are making masks within our facilities, and our Faculty of Pharmacy is producing WHO-credited sanitiser and supplying it to hospitals and other facilities that are caring for the infected. Our Communications and Advancement Division is hard at work educating and raising awareness in our surrounding community, and our Community Engagement Division and the Science Engagement Chair have ensured that messages on responsible and hygienic practices during this period go out in both English and isiXhosa. Some of our education academics are preparing fun exercises for parents to use in home schooling their children, and our psychology colleagues have produced guidelines to help us all keep track of our emotional and mental health during the lockdown. Many others are volunteering in many and diverse worthy initiatives and projects in our Municipality, including providing meals and shelter to the homeless and destitute. It is this spirit of human solidarity and ubuntu that makes one proud to be part of the Rhodes University community. I urge you to show the same spirit wherever you find yourself in these extraordinary times.
I congratulate you warmly on achieving your Rhodes University qualification and wish you well in your future endeavours. Celebrate your achievement in a responsible and joyous manner wherever you may be. We celebrate with you in spirit.
Warmest wishes and, please keep safe and well.
Vice-Chancellor, Rhodes University.