Universities suspend academic programmes

Monday, March 16, 2020

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Wits University, University of Cape Town and the University of Johannesburg have suspended their academic programmes and graduations due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

In a statement released by the UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Nana Poku, said at this point, while the university has not experienced any COVID-19 incidents that would be a cause for a change in normal operating procedures, management is cognisant of the President’s ban of gatherings of more than 100 people.

“To this end, the academic programme is suspended, including tests, with immediate effect until further notice, pending further engagements on a sector-wide approach regarding contact classes.

“Given the uncertainties surrounding timelines for normalisation of our academic programme, EMC (Emergency Medical Care) has resolved to work with Senate to ensure that all lectures are recorded and loaded onto virtual platforms as a matter of urgency.

The DVC (division of the deputy vice-chancellor) teaching and learning will follow-up with a separate communique in due course,” Poku explained.

He said the university remains open and operation, as it seeks further guidance from the relevant ministries through Universities South Africa (USAf).

Graduation ceremonies cancelled

Poku said after due consideration of inputs from the university’s COVID-19 team of experts and other key stakeholders, a decision has been taken to cancel the 2020 April graduation ceremonies.

In April every year, the university traditionally hosts in excess of 20 graduation ceremonies and during this time, approximately 30 000 graduands and their families from all over South Africa and beyond the country’s borders descend upon the university.

Poku said the university is exploring options to ensure that graduands receive their qualifications and other related documents by the end of April 2020. 

Further information will be published on the UKZN website and via email.

“The university regrets the inconvenience caused, but felt it important to minimise the risks associated with such a large gathering and exposure to individuals who may have been exposed to Coronavirus,” Poku said.

Travel and other restrictions

With regard to travel, Poku said it has become necessary to implement the following contingency measures and restrictions until further notice:

  • All university-related international travel is prohibited;
  • All university-related non-essential domestic air travel is prohibited;
  • Personal international travel is strongly discouraged; and
  • Extreme caution and judgment should be applied for personal domestic air travel.

“Anyone returning or arriving from an international destination should advise their line manager at least 72 hours prior to arrival. The line manager will consult the COVID-19 team, who will advise accordingly on the necessary protection measures.

“We strongly encourage the use of technology for non-essential meetings and events.

“All staff and students are reminded that reimbursements for travel cancellations can only be processed in line with the cancellation policies of the relevant service providers and no additional reimbursements will be provided by the university,” Poku said.

Wits University cancels contact teaching

Meanwhile, Wits University has also suspended all contact teaching and university activities that require face-to-face meetings, following a positive test for COVID-19 from one of the students.

The test was conducted by a private laboratory.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) will conduct a retest in order to confirm and validate the results before they are released.

University of Cape Town

The University of Cape Town has also confirmed that one of its staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, said the institution will be closed immediately and students must vacate residences within 72 hours from 16 March 2020.  

University of Johannesburg 

The University of Johannesburg has also announced the suspension of all contact teaching and learning activities with effect from 16 March 2020. - SAnews.gov.za 

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