27 March 2020
Dear SU Community
We have awakened this morning to a different country – characterised by limitation of movement and a suspension of the life that we have grown used to for the next three weeks. It naturally fills us with a sense of anxiety, uncertainty and fear, which is likely to be heightened by the announcement this morning of our country’s first COVID-19-related deaths, both in the Western Cape.
My deepest condolences to the bereaved families with this sad turn of events. The University of Stellenbosch Business School earlier today expressed condolences with the family of USB alumnus, Madeleine van Wyk who passed away this morning. But this tragic loss, like the scores elsewhere in the world in recent days, is exactly the reason why we as a community, and the country as a whole, have had to make this sacrifice of foregoing our comforts and freedoms to save precious lives.
Under the prevailing circumstances it is easy to be overwhelmed by feelings of disruption, discomfort and alienation but let us remember that the lockdown is an important intervention to curb the growing infections. It requires, though, that we all cooperate and observe the necessary restrictions in order to restore health and normality in the shortest time possible.
For our students the lockdown has resulted in an extended autumn recess, but I am sure that they have concerns regarding the loss of valuable lecture time and the impact that it might have on their academic success. Lecturing staff, likewise, are anxious about the “shortened” academic year and its impact on curriculum delivery and assessments. Rest assured that our management and operational teams are hard at work on contingencies to ensure the successful continuation of our academic activities. (You can find all the information on these measures here.)
For now, let us use the lockdown period to also catch-up on family time and doing the things in and around the house that we otherwise find difficult to include in our busy schedules. I am sure that many will keep a watchful eye on official duties and work remotely, but make time for leisure and enjoyment. These are sure ways of dispelling fear and anxiety.
Please take care, adhere to all the precautionary measures during this trying period and remember to visit our COVID-19 website regularly as a source of trusted information on internal measures as well as general information on curbing the disease. If, however, at any stage, any member of the University community suspects that he or she may have been exposed to the virus and feels ill, such person is advised to isolate him/herself and to contact a medical doctor or gain assistance via the COVID-19 treatment helpline on 060 123 456.
Prof Wim de Villiers
Rector and Vice-Chancellor