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09 May 2020

Dear Students


I hope you are well, healthy, and safe. I also hope that you are engaging with your friends and lecturers regularly, and that you have settled into the online learning environment. As with communities around the world – including higher education institutions – Kovsies also feel the impact of the exceptional circumstances resulting from the global COVID-19 outbreak. So much has changed, and our lives are directly and indirectly affected. It is a true test of our resilience and ability to adapt to a changing environment.

I know that it has not always been easy for you – none of us were prepared for a global pandemic of this magnitude. But I also see this as an opportunity for us to develop our learning and teaching model and to find ways of further enhancing the university’s processes and systems.

The suspension of the academic programme and the national lockdown had a huge effect on our staff and students. We had to act fast to ensure the continuation of the 2020 academic programme. Our first priority was to develop low-tech online and distance approaches to learning and teaching. Consequently, we developed support for academic staff and students to navigate the new online learning environment. We also revised our academic calendar and rolled out a carefully planned emergency remote teaching and learning methodology.

It is encouraging to know that you began with online learning this week. Early indications are that the Transition and Orientation from 20 to 30 April 2020 worked well in preparing you for the online learning that started on 4 May 2020. It is also good to know that the #UFSLearnOn material helped you to get ready for the start of online academic activities. Be assured that your lecturers are working hard to deliver a quality teaching and learning experience in the current circumstances. Just as this is a new experience for you, it is also a new learning experience for your lecturers. You may still experience some challenges with your academics as we complete the first week of online learning. Please contact your lecturers and/or faculties so that we can find solutions for you. You can also visit the Digital Life Portal (under the Student Toolbox) on the KovsieLife website.

You have been away from your lecturers, friends, familiar surroundings, and campus facilities for a long time, and I know that you miss it. Unfortunately, the university is bound by Level 4 restrictions and it is not possible to allow any students back on our campuses until so directed by the national government. Only final-year MB ChB students are allowed to return to campus next week – as per the directive from the national government. The majority of staff are also working from home until otherwise indicated, and in accordance with national directives for the further easing of lockdown restrictions.

This is not a university decision but is prescribed in terms of national regulations. Be assured that the university has taken adequate measures to ensure the safety of all facilities, assets, and private belongings on the campuses. We will let you know as soon as we receive a directive that students may be allowed on campus – this will be done in a phased approach in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Your safety, health, and well-being remain our first priority. Look after yourself and your mental health – make use of the #WellnessWarriors campaign of our Department of Student Counselling and Development that is aimed at encouraging health and well-being among students.

Please remember to regularly check the official communication platforms to stay up to date with developments at the university. Avoid fake news, verify information, and only consult the official communication platforms. 

Obeying the lockdown restrictions is an act of kindness to yourself and to others; #StayAtHome and practise social distancing.

I wish you all the best with your studies and hope to see you on our campuses soon.

Best regards

Prof Francis Petersen
Rector and Vice-Chancellor

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