Dear colleagues and students
As we speed towards the end of the year, we turn our attention to the mode of teaching, learning and assessment planned for next year, as well as the associated matter of a possible vaccination rule at Stellenbosch University (SU).
These and other matters came up for discussion at a meeting of our Institutional Committee for Business Continuity (ICBC) on Wednesday 3 November 2021, so let me take this opportunity to update you.
In her regular briefing to the ICBC, Prof Juliet Pulliam of SACEMA (the South African Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis) confirmed that the incidence of coronavirus infections is still declining across the country. The third wave is well and truly over.
However, a fourth wave remains a possibility, so we must stick to the precautions we have become used to by now – wearing a mask in public, maintaining a safe distance from others, sanitising our hands regularly and avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated spaces – whether we are vaccinated or not. And please remember to use Higher Health's HealthCheck daily risk assessment tool before coming to campus.
Prof Pulliam also advised that “monitoring for new variants and increasing access to vaccination should continue to be priorities".
I can confirm that SU researchers and health workers are doing sterling work in the front line against coronavirus disease, and that it is an institutional priority for the University that all our staff and students get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Vaccines are safe, effective and an appropriate public health response to the coronavirus pandemic – the science is clear on this. Click here for answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about COVID-19 vaccines.
Nearly 9 000 vaccinations have been administered at our Lentelus facility in Stellenbosch since it opened three months ago, and we will soon be rolling out mobile vaccination facilities for even greater convenience. All you have to bring along is your ID!
As mandated by Council at its last meeting, we have been conducting a risk assessment as a step towards considering the possibility of policy/rule on COVID-19 vaccination for students and staff. This phase is nearing completion, after which a possible policy/rule will be considered.
PLANS FOR 2022
We want to have everyone back on campus in the new year, COVID-19 permitting. Stellenbosch is a residential university with top facilities and infrastructure designed to have students on campus to provide them with an enriching experience in and out of the classroom.
The ICBC confirmed that SU intends returning to face-to-face teaching, learning and assessment next year. The first term of 2022 will start on 14 February, which is later than usual because matric results are only expected to be released by 21 January at the earliest. Click here for the 2022 term and exam dates at SU.
The higher the number of fully vaccinated people on our campuses, the better our chances of getting back to the full on-campus experience next year. Click here for the SU vaccination statement, and here for more on our vaccination campaign.
We have reached the end of the fourth term, and the upcoming A2 and A3 assessments will continue as planned from 8 November to 11 December 2021 – by and large in sit-down mode on campus, and invigilated.
SU's COVID-19 examinations protocol has been updated – please check and adhere to these rules. 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 will need to show that you received clearance on your mobile phone from HealthCheck (https://healthcheck.higherhealth.ac.za). Dishonesty in this regard could lead to disciplinary sanction. And you could be excluded from sit-down assessments if you display significant COVID-related symptoms.
COVID-19 related concerns and transgressions may be submitted to the head of the Examinations Office, Mrs Ruby Frans, at email@example.com.
Please note that a new examinations answer book will be used in the upcoming assessment period. All students need to familiarise themselves with the instructions on how to complete the answer book. Click here for a short video.
As was the case earlier this year, decisions about access to a supplementary assessment opportunity (A3) will be announced three days (including weekends) before the assessment opportunity. The date of the announcement/notice and the date of the A3 assessment are not included in the three-day notice period.
For the latest information, please consult SU's COVID-19 webpage regularly.
Students are reminded that under the current adjusted alert level 1 of the national state of disaster, a curfew is in place from midnight to 4 am. If you go out at night, please make sure you leave in time to get back safely to your place of residence before the curfew commences. Campus Security is unable to provide its pedestrian escort service during the curfew.
The fact that assessments will mostly take place on campus where many venues have back-up generators will help to prevent interruptions due to loadshedding. Below, please find a few practical suggestions to minimise the disruptive impact of power cuts on your exam preparation, for instance:
- You can use certain features of the SUNLearn app offline, but you can also download material when you do have power and internet access. Find more tips for online learning here.
- Know your loadshedding schedule. Download a reliable app and check it regularly for updates.
- Keep your laptop, phone, router, battery pack, UPS and other devices fully charged.
- Use your phone as a WiFi hotspot during loadshedding, but be sure to test this beforehand.
- Some assessments will be taking place online, so plan for possible loadshedding by identifying spots in a different zone nearby where you could get access to electricity and the internet.
Back to campus
The ICBC affirmed its previous decision to recall staff to our campuses in a phased way as we prepare to return to face-to-face teaching, learning, assessment and research on-campus next year. This is being done in such a way that risks continue to be managed and COVID-19 regulations and health protocols continue to be followed. Look out for more detailed guidance from Human Resources in this regard.
Colleagues, you are encouraged to take leave. The past two years have been gruelling, and while your hard work to keep the wheels of the University turning is much appreciated, it is also important that you do not neglect your health and wellbeing.
Besides, if you do not take the days due to you, you may lose some of your leave balance. Leave carried over from the 2019 cycle by special arrangement expired at the end of July 2021 already (in terms of arrangements that came into effect in April). The next deadline is 31 January 2022, when carried-over leave from the 2020 cycle will be forfeited.
So, please put in leave without delay, in consultation with your line manager. And please record all leave, including sick leave, accurately on SUN-e-HR.
Thank you to everyone for doing your part in these challenging times. And good luck with the upcoming exams!
We are looking forward to graduation at the end of the year. Unfortunately, we do not have permission to host full-scale in-person ceremonies because of the size limit on permissible gatherings. Undergraduate, honours and master's degree ceremonies will therefore take place online again, but we are working on including more personal and celebratory elements in the ceremonies. Small in-person ceremonies for the awarding of doctoral and honorary degrees, as well as the Chancellor's medal and awards, will proceed as planned from 13 to 16 December 2021.
Best wishes for the last stretch of the year. Please stay safe and take good care of yourself and your loved ones.
Prof Stan du Plessis