Nelson Mandela University update 20 April 2020


As you would be aware, we remain in a highly volatile period as a country, sector and university. The fluidity of the situation we find ourselves in is one that makes planning and implementation extremely challenging, particularly because the scourge of the COVID-19 disease is beyond our present control.

We are aware of the anxieties among staff and students and, while we do not have all the answers, we are working very hard on plans and commitment to ensure that nobody is left behind in concluding the 2020 academic year.

As shared last week, we are working on multiple pathways that range from digital to face-to-face contact, and a blended approach to these extremes, to enable all students to fulfil their study obligations.

We are exploring ways in which we can adequately support both academic staff and students in navigating this precarious period, while also needing to complete the academic year.

We note the degree of angst around the proposed learning and teaching pathways and are gravely aware of the social discrepancies among our staff and student population. We wish to reiterate that ensuring that all our students are afforded access to education and the necessary support towards their overall success remains an apex priority of our University.

The extended recess has now come to an end. Academic staff and students will use this week, of 20 April 2020, to prepare for the gradual resumption of academic activities. Lecturers will start connecting with students in their modules to determine what type of learning pathway is possible for each student. Academic activities will start gradually from Monday, 28 April 2020, until Monday, 4 May 2020, when the phased-in learning on the previously communicated alternative pathways will be intensified.

Academics have been advised not to schedule any assessments too soon into the phasing in of academic activities, so as to afford students an opportunity to transition to the alternate learning pathways.

Students will be communicated with through effective and applicable means, including bulk SMSs. This will also assist us in determining what resources students have at their disposal, such as textbooks and module guides, and how to guide and assist them along alternative pathways.

I wish to stress again that irrespective of the pathway that students use to partake in their studies due to differing access to learning and teaching resources, no student will be left behind.

Greater detail in this regard will be communicated by the Learning and Teaching division in due course.

The University is planning around a number of scenarios with regards to the continuation of the academic programme, taking into account the resourcing that will be needed to bring these plans to fruition. As such, a number of initiatives are being explored in relation to creating access to the devices necessary to ensure access to online learning resources, as well as using other remote learning approaches.

As we concretise our recovery plans, a specialised webpage for Academic and Research activities at Mandela University during COVID-19 will be developed for your convenience. Sections with information for under- and postgraduate students and staff on completing the 2020 academic year will be shared.

It will also include details of the academic recovery plan, FAQs, information about data, connectivity and devices, online learning and preparatory modules, and various kinds of research support for laboratory studies, fieldwork and desktop research, and capacity building initiatives.

We are in uncertain times. Nationally, we have been presented with various scenarios that are aimed at assisting us in planning for the future.

We remain cognisant that our primary focus at present is on staying safe and healthy, but are also aware of our operational obligations.

I trust that you will continue to tap into the available psychosocial support resources available to both staff and students in this period.

I wish to thank all our staff, students and their loved ones for your continued patience and resilience as we collectively try to sail through these previously unchartered waters.

Professor Sibongile Muthwa
Vice-Chancellor: Nelson Mandela University