4 June 2021
Feedback from the ICBC
Dear colleagues and students
A strong warning to remain on the alert against the threat of COVID-19 has been conveyed to us by Prof Juliet Pulliam, Director of SACEMA (the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis), hosted at Stellenbosch University (SU). She made a presentation at a meeting of our Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) on Thursday, 3 June 2021.
Since our previous meeting, South Africa was placed on adjusted risk level 2. Prof Pulliam confirmed that we are still fast approaching a third wave of infections. Although the rate of increase has slowed somewhat, Stellenbosch remains in the “high risk" category, with more than 29 weekly incidents per 100 000 of the population.
As I said in my previous communique, now is the time to take action. I want to thank everyone who heeded the warning. Your action has paid off and the level of infections has stabilised in Stellenbosch, but at this high level we cannot let our guard down.
As we head for exams (21 June to 24 July), it is vital that each of us wear a mask, avoid crowded and poorly ventilated spaces, maintain a safe physical distance from others and wash our hands regularly.
Also please take note of the amended curfew, 23:00 to 04:00. Campus Security will not be able to escort students home during these hours, and staff members who need to travel or be outdoors for business purposes should apply afresh for the necessary permit.
Learning and teaching
The ICBC carefully considered the implications of risk level 2 for SU regarding our approach to learning and teaching this year, including the upcoming assessment period.
We firstly noted that our sector as a whole is governed by directions on managing the 2021 academic year, gazetted by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) on 29 March. Because local circumstances vary, individual institutions are given considerable leeway to manage the pandemic. However, we all have the responsibility to ensure that students, staff and visitors to our campuses strictly comply with health protocols and social distancing measures.
Based on input received from our various workstreams, the ICBC decided to continue with ARTLA (augmented remote teaching, learning and assessment) for the remainder of the semester and the rest of the year. Faculties have some flexibility to offer certain modules fully online, but only after careful consideration.
Of course, we find ourselves in a highly volatile situation due to the pandemic, and circumstances may change at short notice. But, as things stand at the moment, we are confident that we have the necessary arrangements and protocols in place to proceed safely.
The upcoming A2 and A3 assessments will continue as planned from 21 June to 24 July – by and large in sit-down mode on campus, invigilated.
Please note you will not be granted access to a venue unless you wear a mask, and you will be asked to leave if you take it off during the exam. You need to show that you received clearance on your cellphone from Higher Health's daily risk assessment tool, HealthCheck (https://healthcheck.higherhealth.ac.za). Dishonesty in this regard could lead to disciplinary charges. And you could be excluded from sit-down assessments if you display significant COVID-related symptoms.
Our IT Division is pulling out all the stops to optimise WiFi connections on campus, but please make sure you follow the correct procedure to connect to Eduroam. Incorrect registration causes significant instability in WiFi connectivity.
The Extended Learning Spaces (ELS) project is progressing well despite challenges to obtain crucial components due to a world-wide shortage of materials. Eight venues have been completed so far and if all goes according to plan, 67 venues will be completed by the end of September.
The protocol for the booking of venues, hosting of events and having face-to- face meetings has been updated to bring it in line with the current risk level 2. Click here to access it.
We welcome vigilance by staff and students to keep all SU environments on their toes. If you have concerns about COVID protocols not being followed, please take it up with the person responsible for the particular facility – e.g. the dean or faculty manager. You can also send a WhatsApp text message to 082 808 2333 for the attention of SU's chief COVID-19 compliance officer.
With the national COVID-19 vaccination programme picking up speed, our Human Resources Division has been receiving inquiries about the type of leave that staff members should submit for this purpose. A category will be created for this purpose: “Leave of Absence: Vaccination". More detail will be conveyed in a separate communication.
Let's do it for each other
Colleagues, students, the risk of COVID-19 infection remains high, and therefore we must keep our guard up and comply with all protocols to prevent the pandemic from spreading rapidly. It is important that all of us take a shared responsibility for keeping each other safe.
For updated information, please consult SU's COVID-19 webpage regularly.
Please take care and stay safe,
Prof Stan du Plessis