08 January 2021


Message by Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor

Dear Colleagues,

I hope that you are well, that you enjoyed the university recess and festive season, and that you spent some well-deserved time with your families. I wish you all the best for 2021; we may not know what lies ahead, but I am thankful that we are able to resume the year with the hope that it will be a good one for us all.

Although 2020 was not an easy year, we managed to complete the academic programme as planned and keep the university’s operations on track. This was no small task – it happened due to the incredible commitment and hard work of our staff. And just as much as our collective efforts paid off last year, we will focus on making a similar and even greater success of 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has entered a new phase with the second wave of infections, together with the emergence of a new and more transmissible variant of SARS-CoV-2. Although some provinces have already had a spike in infections, the Free State has not yet seen a significant increase. This means that the province’s spike for the second wave of infections has yet to come, and we might be facing a challenging time ahead. It is therefore important that careful planning is done to ensure that our staff and students remain safe and that the 2021 academic programme remains intact.

The university management met this week, and it was agreed that a minimalistic approach will be taken to the return of staff and students. During the first semester of 2021, we will continue with an online/blended learning and teaching approach for first-year and senior students. All our students will register online. Certain classes will be online, some in contact or face-to-face mode, and others a combination of contact and online. More information on the 2021 registration process can be found on the university’s website.

As indicated in a communique to staff on 3 January 2021, the re-integration plan for the adjusted Level 3 of the national lockdown has been revised. I am attaching a document that explains the re-integration plan for the adjusted Level 3 in detail, including the arrangements for the return of staff to our campuses as from 11 January 2021, entry to the campus, wearing of cloth masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), physical distancing, environmental hygiene, the protocol for on-campus meetings, staff with minor children, public transport, and the management of visitors during this period. The plan will be amended as and when needed.

A task team has been formed to revisit the blended learning arrangements for 2021 as submitted by faculties and to compile a full logistical plan for the UFS for 2021. This plan will be submitted to the Rectorate and the Teaching and Learning Management Group (TLMG) for discussion and approval.

The impact of the pandemic has been felt by the university community in many ways. Let us take a moment to think of those staff members who have passed away up to now due to COVID-19: Andries van de Venter (Manager: Student Lab Management and Support, ICT Services); Buti Mnyakeni (Manager: Student Governance); Ruth Tshehisi (Intermediate Phase Academic Adviser: Faculty of Education); Vernon Bester (First Aid Assistant: Kovsie Health); and HS van der Walt (former manager of the IDEAS Lab on the South Campus). Their passing is a great loss to the university community, and I wish their family, friends, and colleagues strength during this difficult time. I am also aware that some of our staff have lost family and/or friends due to COVID-19; we have also lost alumni such as Elize Cawood, well-known actress, and Dr Jan van der Merwe, cultural historian, writer, and photographer. Our deepest condolences to their families and friends.

As we are losing some of our staff and alumni, it is critical to remain vigilant and to sharpen our focus on adhering to the health and safety protocols wherever we are. Remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is still testing every aspect of society; we must not underestimate the impact that the pandemic has on local and global communities. Take care of yourselves and those around you and comply with the national guidelines and regulations. Visit the COVID-19 webpage for information on the university’s approach to the pandemic.

It remains important that you look after your health and well-being, and I encourage you to participate in the programmes and webinars presented by our Division of Employee Wellness and Organisational Development this year.

May you have a restful weekend ahead.


Prof Francis Petersen
Rector and Vice-Chancellor

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