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04 June 2020 | Story Lacea Loader

It has come to the attention of the University of the Free State (UFS) that false and inaccurate statements have been circulating on Twitter on 4 June 2020, claiming that its students were not equipped or supported to study remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown. The UFS believes that it is important to engage in dialogue to correct any misconceptions and inaccuracies that are at risk of being perpetuated.

Contrary to these reports, the UFS has invested much time and resources in the development and deployment of low-tech online and distance approaches to learning and teaching. Since March 2020, the university has undertaken extensive measures to support its students after classes were suspended and to ensure the continuation of the academic programme.

Statements on Twitter include a number of inaccuracies, which the university wants to correct:

• The Institutional Student Representative Council (ISRC) was not suspended by the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen. In fact, the university management regularly meets with the ISRC on matters of concern to them. Student representatives also serve on a number of institutional committees – both before and during the national lockdown.
• No deregistration of any students has taken place.
• Since the end of April 2020, structured and managed data was provided to students to obtain access to academic content as well as to the academic platforms for free. However, to access this free data, students need to download the GlobalProtect app – this was communicated numerously and explained to students.  The university’s ICT Services will provide video and technical guides to all students to assist them with downloading the app.
• As of June 2020, all allowances for which students qualify and which are approved by NSFAS, have been paid by the university.
• Although online learning provides a solution to continue with programme delivery, the university is deeply aware of the fact that access may be a barrier – especially during these extraordinary times.  To assist vulnerable students, a total of 3 500 laptops have been procured by the UFS, enabling the university to assist eligible students in accessing the online platforms, obtaining learning material, and engaging with lecturers. The university is in the process of distributing the laptops to students who qualify. The Department of Higher Education, Science and Innovation’s process to provide laptops to students is separate from the 3 500 laptops procured by the UFS.  

The UFS remains committed to supporting its students in response to COVID-19 and is looking forward to working as a community to prepare for the institution’s response to the new challenges of responsibly returning to campus life from June 2020 onward. As staff and students start returning to the institution in a phased approach this month, the UFS will continue to comply with all applicable governmental directives and health guidelines to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of its students and staff.

Released by:
Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Marketing)
Telephone: +27 51 401 2584 | +27 83 645 2454
Email: news@ufs.ac.za | loaderl@ufs.ac.za

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