Vice-Chancellor Message – 25 February 2022
25 February 2022
Dear UJ Community,
As a young boy growing up in my rural home in Venda, Limpopo, my friends and I used to huddle in front of the TV to watch movies about the Vietnam war. In 1991, during my undergraduate studies, I sat transfixed to the TV when the USA invaded Iraq, in what was called the Gulf War. I vividly remember gasping in horror at the sight of aerial bombardments and ground attacks as planes and large army vehicles rolled into Iraq.
Flashes of those memories came hurtling back yesterday when Russia announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine. The announcement was followed by explosions in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv as well as other parts of the country, in what appeared to be a full-scale invasion. These developments have had the global community on tenterhooks, with fears of a full-scale war that has the potential to destabilise world peace.
Whichever way you look at it, wars are too costly. All they do is bring pain and suffering, including for those countries that claim victory. There are no true winners in war. As scholars Paul Collier and his fellow researchers indicated in their research paper, Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy. A World Bank Policy Research Report, “long-running conflicts cause enormous human suffering and are highly destructive. They lead to internal displacement and migration, destroy a country’s key infrastructure, and divert resources away from productive activities and investment in public health and education.” In this regard, I join the global community in calling for a cession of hostilities. As the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “Give peace a chance.”
Back home in our country, I listened intently as Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana delivered his maiden Budget Speech on Wednesday. I solicited the view of our CFO, Ms. Nolwazi Mamorare on the higher education budget, and she was quick to say that the additional R32.6 billion announced for financial support for current bursary holders and first-year students under the NSFAS should be welcomed. As she put it, while it is not sufficient, the allocation will go a long way in alleviating some of the problems universities face around student debts.
There were other positives from the Budget Speech, including the announcement of no increases to the general fuel levy on petrol and diesel for 2022/23, as well as the call to adapt to the needs of addressing climate change. I particularly welcome the announcement that over the medium-term, R76 billion will be allocated for job creation programmes. Furthermore, an additional R18.4 billion will be made available for the Presidential Employment Initiative. I urge you to read my insights on South Africa’s burgeoning youth unemployment rate, which has long been proclaimed as a national crisis, as reflected in an opinion article I penned recently.
On a different note, I wish to share important news that many of you might have missed. A former employee of the University was charged and arrested for theft and fraud committed in August 2019. The individual was recently convicted on 242 counts of theft and has been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. The University welcomes the decision of the court as we have a zero-tolerance approach to fraud, corruption, and related acts of dishonesty or misconduct.
UJ will continue to prosecute such offences in line with our fraud prevention policy. This includes preventing, detecting, investigating and reporting on fraud, corruption, and related acts of dishonesty or misconduct. Any unethical conduct by staff, students or third parties (purporting to represent the University), should be reported to the independently managed fraud and corruption hotline.
Related to this, the Centre for African Business at the Johannesburg Business School (JBS) hosted a webinar on “The digitalisation of good governance”, on Wednesday, 23 February 2022. The webinar was presented by Eldrid Jordaan, CEO and Founder of GovChat.Org, one of Africa’s largest citizen-government digital engagement platforms. GovChat enables citizens to connect and communicate with national, provincial and local government representatives in real-time via chatbots, WhatsApp and USSD. Visit JBS for more interesting news and events.
In other news, Dr Kirti Menon and Gloria Castrillón of the Division for Teaching Excellence presented at the Lund University/U21 symposium on Teaching for Sustainability (16 – 17 February 2022). Their presentation on curriculum development and triggering change at UJ was well-received. The breakout discussions, which included input from Professor Boitumelo Diale, Vice-Dean of Teaching and Learning of the Faculty of Education, were fascinating and provided insight into ways in which sustainability is linked to a variety of aspects of curriculum, transdisciplinary teaching and learning, quality assurance, as well as a range of other processes at UJ and other the U21 institutions.
Elsewhere, as I was walking across our campuses this week, I was thrilled to see some of our students sporting the bright UJ orange colours. We have heard your calls for UJ merchandise, and it’s here again! Over the last two days, UJ students have been coming in their numbers to purchase merchandise from the mobile brand shop – Reimagination Station. Branded items include T-shirts, jackets, bags, caps, umbrellas, notebooks, stationery and many more. The pop-up shop has already been a success at the DFC and Soweto Campuses. Students at the Bunting Road and Kingsway campuses can expect to see the Reimagination Station on their campuses next week Wednesday and Thursday (2-3 March). First year students can make their way to the Station to receive their first-year packs which include a bag, lanyard, pen and cardholder to kickstart their academic year. To purchase merchandise online visit the UJ Shop.
Last night, the Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture (FADA) opened Prof Leora Farber’s installation of videos and prints, titled ghosted matte/phantom hurt (and other chimera). This creative output platform, of the BioArts, brings forward yet another transdisciplinary angle of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). The work is pursued in collaboration with Prof Tobias Barnard, Faculty of Health Sciences, and creates a unique space for those in biology and the arts. Congratulations to the team!
As of 1 March 2022, the exhibition will also be accessible on the Moving Cube platform. Yesterday I went to watch a play Bloke and his American Bantu at the Keorapetse William Kgositsile Theatre at the Arts Centre of the University of Johannesburg Kingsway Campus. Produced and directed by Sello Maake kaNcube it is based on the correspondence between Bloke Modisane and Langston Hughes which were discovered by Professor Kgositsile. Please take time to go and watch the play before closure this Saturday. For the ticket sales visit: https://arts.uj.ac.za.
On COVID-19 matters, I am pleased to announce that we will have COVID-19 Vaccinations taking place on three of our UJ Campuses, starting from 7 – 30 March 2022, from 9:00 until 15:00. Both the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines will be available for individuals to choose from. The schedule is as follows:
- Monday: Doornfontein Campus (Atrium A & B, John Orr Building).
- Wednesday: Kingsway Campus (to be confirmed soon)
- Friday: Soweto Campus (Imbizo Foyer)
I reiterate my appreciation for the way our students and employees are embracing our University’s Mandatory Vaccination Policy. Please remember that employees must be fully vaccinated by 15 March 2022 (fully vaccinated does not include the booster shot, where applicable), or have been approved for exemption from vaccination. As for students, they are required to be fully vaccinated by 31 March 2022 or have been approved for exemption from vaccination. Staff, postdoctoral research fellows and students can upload their proof of vaccination on https://ulink.uj.ac.za/ujvac. Under “COVID-19 Services”, select “UJ Covid-19 Mandatory Vaccine Disclosure Facility”.
On the matter of access control processes, we wish to thank you for your support, understanding and patience with the processes thus far. Management is aware that there have been some challenges in terms of traffic at the gates, and the processes are currently being reviewed to improve the overall experience. A detailed communique outlining the new processes will be sent out in the new week.
You are requested to allow an additional 30 minutes for arrival for access control and screening processes. To ensure that the experience is as seamless as possible, employees and students are requested to bring along their proof of identification, namely: barcoded driver’s licence, passport or RSA ID card/book; as well as vaccination certificate (printed or digital copy) or proof of exemption application. Furthermore, you are encouraged to complete the COVID-19 pre-screening process before arrival. The link will be sent via email to all persons from the email address firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject University of Johannesburg – Covid19 – Daily Checklist.
For more information on mandatory vaccination protocol, as well as assistance for vaccination and downloading of certificates, please visit our University website, www.uj.ac.za.
Finally, I remind you to join me for the Vice-Chancellor Virtual Reading Group session today at 14:00. The first recommended book for discussion this year is The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, an economist and philosopher. Considered the “bible of capitalism”, Smith details the first system of political economy, which still has applicability today, centuries on from its publication. Use this link to join in the discussion: https://zoom.us/j/94637436383
The University leadership will continue to monitor the national and provincial COVID-19 outlook, and an update will be provided accordingly. This information may be verified by visiting: www.uj.ac.za/coronavirus. Should any of you experience symptoms of the coronavirus, please use the National Hotline of 0800 029 999 or WhatsApp line 0600 123456 or go to the following link for more information: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/.
As usual, we appeal to all to adhere to the recommended precautionary measures, hygiene and physical distancing (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) at all times.
Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg
Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time-zone.