colleagues and students
Allow me to
bring you up to speed on the decisions taken at the latest meeting of our Institutional
Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC), which took place on Monday 4 October
2021, and where we also welcomed the newly elected Students’ Representative Council
Chair, Ms Viwe Kobokana, for the first time.
important decisions include that Stellenbosch University (SU) intends returning
to face-to-face teaching and learning next year, COVID-19 permitting, and that
we are also recalling staff to campus in a phased way. This will be done in
such a manner that risks continue to be managed and regulations and health
protocols continue to be followed.
on for more on these and other issues.
customary briefing to the ICBC, Prof Juliet Pulliam of SACEMA (the South
African Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis), warned
that even though we have exited the third wave, a resurgence of infections remains
one of her key messages was that “SU should continue to facilitate vaccination
of students and staff, and encourage behaviours that reduce transmission, such
as masks, distancing, hand-washing, and self-isolation when sick”.
to a report by the Senior Director of SU’s Campus Health Service, Dr Pierre
Viviers, there has been a good uptake of services at SU’s vaccination centre at the Lentelus sports grounds in
Hammanshand Road, Stellenbosch. Nearly 5 000 staff, students and members
of the public have been vaccinated at the facility since it opened on 10 August
Tygerberg campus, 637 staff members and 2 219 students have been
vaccinated – many of them as part of the Sisonke programme for healthcare
workers earlier this year. We have these exact figures available because staff
and students had to register on the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ online
portal. These numbers exclude those who were vaccinated by the health
facilities where they work.
also shared a most illuminating slide comparing the number of COVID cases among
students on the Stellenbosch and Tygerberg campuses (see below). It
clearly shows the beneficial impact of a high vaccination rate on a particular
Tygerberg campus, 71% of undergraduates have been vaccinated to date, and
student leaders are aiming for 100%. Registering on SU’s online portal was not
a requirement on our Stellenbosch campus, as it did not form part of the Sisonke
programme. And while accurate data is being kept at our Lentelus facility, only
a relatively small portion of our Stellenbosch staff members and students have
been served there. Although many members of our Stellenbosch campus community have
been making use of other vaccination facilities as well, the vaccination rate here
has probably not reached Tygerberg’s level yet.
That is why
the graph for Tygerberg is flattened out, while the graph for Stellenbosch
shows spikes in the number of COVID cases, Dr Viviers explained.
So, I again
want to encourage everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccines are
safe, they save lives, and they clearly work. Getting the jab is the
responsible thing to do. Click here for the SU vaccination statement.
The ICBC took note of the mandate that the SU Council provided to management last week to
work towards the urgent development of a policy/rule on COVID-19 vaccination
for students and staff for the 2022 academic year, paying due regard to
consultation and risk management.
The ICBC received
feedback that the risk assessment required in terms of a directive promulgated in
June was nearly complete, after which a policy/rule would be formulated and
submitted for approval. Last week, Council decided that its Executive Committee
would consider the matter as soon as possible.
four weeks of classes remain for the year. The ICBC decided that assessments
for the rest of 2021 would take place in sit-down, invigilated mode, as was the
case earlier this year. However, a few exceptions will apply because in some
programmes, this assessment mode will not be practical, while in others,
arrangements for online assessments have already been made and communicated.
Faculties and the Registrar’s office will communicate the necessary details to
staff and students.
confirmed that the graduation ceremonies from 13 to 16 December would proceed
in hybrid mode, as communicated at the end of August. Undergraduate, honours
and master’s degree ceremonies will take place online, supplemented by small
in-person ceremonies for the awarding of doctoral and honorary degrees, as well
as the Chancellor’s medal and awards.
has noted the progress made as reflected in the fact that South Africa moved
from adjusted alert level 2 to level 1 last week, but although the size of
permissible gatherings has been increased, it would still not enable full-scale
graduation ceremonies in face-to-face mode.
ICBC did note the suggestions from the student body for more personal and
celebratory elements to be included in the ceremonies, and we will try our
utmost to do so.
teaching and learning in 2022
returning to face-to-face teaching and learning next year, in line with our
status as a leading residential university.
The academic year will start on
14 February 2022, which is later than usual because matric results are only
expected to be released by
21 January at the earliest. Click here for
next year’s term and exam dates at SU.
teaching, learning and assessment (ERTLA) got us through the most stringent
COVID-19 lockdown levels last year, and when these were sufficiently eased this
year, we were able to augment online classes with contact sessions (ARTLA). Now
we are looking to go further, depending, of course, on the status of the
pandemic and COVID-19 regulations at the time.
the number of fully vaccinated people on our campuses, the better our chances
of getting back to the full on-campus experience. This is why it is an
institutional priority for the University that all its staff and students get
fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Click here for more on our vaccination campaign.
for recalling staff to campus
The ICBC took
an important decision regarding the phased return of staff members to their
decision is premised on the fact that SU is a residential university. The
engagement of students and staff in a myriad of activities on our campuses is
an integral part of the fabric of this institution. The COVID pandemic has
ripped into this fabric and disrupted the vibrant and diverse nature of our
institution. We need to gather the pieces and start the process of stitching
together this colourful tapestry.
2020, various measures were taken to deal with the pandemic. One of the most significant
measures for staff was that those employees who could do so, started working
from home as a necessary intervention – as prescribed in national COVID
regulations – to deal with the health crisis.
As from 1
October 2021, the country has moved down to lockdown level 1 thanks to lower
COVID-19 infection rates reported nationwide. Following input from our Medical
Advisory Committee as well as the workstream for staff, the ICBC has decided
that environments should start the process of having staff return to perform
their duties from their campus workplaces. The aim is to have all staff back on
campus come the new year.
recognises that various factors prevent a complete return of all staff at this
time. These include the fact that the year is close to the end, that staff
might need to make personal arrangements, and that a fourth wave of COVID-19
infections is possible. Most importantly, not all staff have been vaccinated at
this stage. As you know, a risk assessment is being competed, and this will
guide the University’s vaccination policy/rule.
remaining two months of this year, these issues must be attended to so that the
full re-integration of staff is in place come the new year.
The ICBC affirms
that in the meantime, the current working arrangements are to continue. This
entails that staff work either remotely from home or in hybrid fashion (i.e.
remotely and physically, interchangeably), as approved by the dean of a faculty
or the head of a PASS (professional and administrative support services)
In our previous ICBC communication, we provided reasons for a return
to campus. These still stand:
- Tasks that
require physical presence
- Tasks that need to be done to advance higher levels of engagement with colleagues and with the priorities at hand
- Physical presence on campuses to facilitate spontaneous interaction and exchange of ideas that facilitate innovation, and that cannot be achieved in case of remote-only work
- To prevent estrangement from campuses as primary spaces of work in the context of residential universities
- To strengthen cohesion and cooperation among staff, especially with regard to the induction
of new staff and students.
health and safety protocols will be strictly enforced. These include daily
health screenings, the wearing of masks, sanitising and physical distancing. To
comply with physical distancing requirements, environments may roster staff to
come to the office on different days or at different times. Additional measures
will apply for employees who are older than 60 and/or suffer from
measures will be reviewed should the situation on our campuses change or the
country again be moved to another risk level.
vaccinated is the best way to combat COVID-19 and create a safe environment for
staff and students on our campuses. Click here for more information on getting vaccinated at
the University’s own site in Stellenbosch, and here for more on vaccination sites that may be
closer to your home.
coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt our lives, but we are pushing back – both
as individuals and as an institution. That makes me proud and fills me with
we adhere to COVID-19 protocols, we curtail the disease – even more so when we receive
the vaccine. Every time we carry out our duties or carry on with our studies
despite the challenges caused by COVID-19, we are helping one another overcome
what is certainly the biggest test of our time.
So, a big
thank you to every member of the University community for your contribution.
Step by step, we are indeed “building back better”.
safe and look out for one another.
Rector and Vice-Chancellor,
and acting chair: ICBC