21 September 2020
Dear colleagues and students
Today marks the start of two new phases – the final term of the academic year, and level 1 of the national lockdown imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Along with the rest of the country, we are pleased that the situation has improved to such an extent that the lockdown could be relaxed. However, let us not be rash in our response, as COVID-19 remains a threat.
Following the president's announcement last week, the Department of Higher Education and Training has requested institutions to conduct their own risk assessments before inviting staff and students to return. We wasted no time to get started. An urgent meeting of our Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) has been called for this week, and the university community will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible.
In the meantime, we will be continuing with emergency remote teaching, learning and assessment to ensure our successful completion of the academic year. The final term is typically extremely busy, so we can expect this one to be even more hectic considering our unusual circumstances.
To each student
Thank you for still doing your best. From the feedback received, and judging by the assessment results to date, students seem to have adjusted well to the new circumstances. Nevertheless, we realise that you face significant challenges, but please rest assured that our faculties, departments, lecturers and support staff are pulling out all the stops to assist you.
All of the best – we're nearly there! We have only six weeks of lectures to go before entering the end-of-year examinations.
The upcoming examinations, and particularly having to complete these online, can be very stressful. The Centre for Student Counselling and Development (CSCD) is offering additional online sessions to help students prepare for the exams. If you would like to tune in for any of these, please let them know. Sessions are free. You can also schedule a session with a professional counsellor or psychologist, who will assess you to determine the type of support you need.
For all academic support queries, please e-mail email@example.com or dial 021 808 4707. For all emotional support queries, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or dial 021 808 4994. Please click here for more information about all CSCD services on offer.
Another challenge our country grapples with from time to time is loadshedding. Our academic departments are exploring mechanisms that would still offer students a chance to complete modules where loadshedding affects their scheduled assessment opportunities. Your lecturers will notify you of arrangements in this regard.
Final-year students are probably thinking about employment opportunities and might be worried about the current economic climate. Let me remind you that CSCD's Unit for Graduand Career Services is there to help. They aim to connect students to the world of work and have excellent resources available to do so (click here). They can help you compile a compelling CV, optimise your LinkedIn profile and prepare for interviews – all for free. I also encourage you to register on MatiesCareers to learn about possible job opportunities.
To staff members
We realise that this difficult academic year has posed enormous challenges. For instance, we know that properly preparing for online lectures requires a significant amount of additional work for lecturers. We have the greatest appreciation for your sustained efforts in delivering our academic offering. Most students and their parents are equally grateful – we have ample evidence to support this.
Unfortunately, lecturers sometimes face unfair criticism, which can be very demoralising. Yet support is available. Consult your head of department or dean, and do not hesitate to approach the Human Resources Division for assistance. I also remind you of the services of the University's wellness office (click here). Moreover, you have our special health and wellness webpage to your disposal (click here).
Our professional administrative support services staff too are going multiple extra miles. We are extremely grateful for your efforts. Among the range of new approaches that we had to adopt in virtually no time, I believe we have found methods that will stand us in good stead to further improve the University's services moving forward.
The silver lining to the cloud of this challenging year is that Team SU have never been more united and appreciative of one another, which is something I am very pleased about. Let's keep it up. Hang in there – there's light at the end of the tunnel.
Prof Wim de Villiers
Rector and Vice-Chancellor