Frontline series: All hands on deck at Computing Sciences

20/08/2020

Computing Sciences frontline staff have been working hard to ensure student access, man stations and step up for one another if somebody is ill.  They have all also taken on extra responsibilities since the beginning of lockdown. They share their stories. 

Computing Sciences frontline staff have been working hard to ensure student access, man stations and step up for one another if somebody is ill. They have all also taken on extra responsibilities since the beginning of lockdown. They share their stories. 

“Although there are a lot of frustrating aspects with keeping up with what can and can’t be done and who I need to talk to about what, I think on the whole the University and the Computing Sciences department, in particular, have accomplished more than anyone thought possible.  I would like to express my thanks to those on the ground on a daily basis like security staff and cleaners, who have thankless tasks but get on and do them with a smile on their faces,” says lab coordinator Hayley Irvine.

“I enjoy working from my office and seeing the friendly, familiar faces of colleagues.  I feel proud to be working in our Department where teamwork is key.  Everyone is always ‘All hands on deck’ and keen to assist one another”, says secretary Terry-Lane Kriel.

Together, network administrator Jean Rademakers, assistant systems administrator Jarryd Johnson and Hayley replaced 245 undergraduate PCs in the Computing Sciences labs during the physical lockdown.

Jean, 50, says what stands out for him is “being able to assist people and resolve issues but the thing we all miss the most is human interaction”.

Jean, who has been at the University for 23 years, maintains the Department’s network environment and provides ICT laboratory and staff equipment.  During lockdown he has been liaising daily with students and staff remotely regarding hardware and software queries, placing and physically collecting and delivering these orders.

Jarryd, 28, says “It makes me happy to know that we, as a department, are trying our best to help where we can”.

He creates and maintains the operating system and various applications on the computers for the student labs as well as staff, doing troubleshooting and fixing computer-related issues. 

Jarryd ensured that before lockdown the Department had a central point of contact to share files, and have regular meetings, also to boost morale, he says.  He has also created guides to easier assist in future. He enjoys problem-solving and being able to assist people.

Jarryd studied and worked as lab assistant for five years before joining as a staff member five years ago.

Lab coordinator Hayley, 55, helps with keeping the lab and staff equipment functional.  She also manages lab bookings and the student assistants and lectures Computing Fundamentals.  

“The majority of my time during lockdown has been dedicated to trying to help students who need access to res or campus. 

She also does lab seat booking for the exit level and special needs students and assists with planning for the different student pathways. 

“I miss seeing my colleagues on a daily basis and dealing face to face with students.  Work is certainly never dull.  There is always something new to learn like online lecturing and video creation and finding new ways to do assessments and support.  I am also blessed to work in a department that is the true definition of a team, with everyone pulling their weight and helping wherever and whenever needed in any way they can”, says Hayley who has been at the University for 12 years.

Lab Assistant Ntombizanele Zomba, 55, has been at the University for 31 years and assists with admin duties.  She now also ensures that students are screened, and does hand and PC sanitising.

“I most enjoy assisting staff and students and I am happy that we as a department, are trying our best to help where we can to assist students who do not have access to computers at home”, she says.

Administrative Coordinator Dudu Fani, 44, says “I know we will come out of this stronger and wiser, just hope it will be soon.”  She loves people and her job is about helping students, making their life easier during their studies.  

“I also love helping my colleagues with anything they request of me.  Dudu provides admin support to both staff and students with registration queries, marks, short term contracts etc. She sees herself as the link and go-to person in the department. “I also bring lots of laughter.”  Now she communicates with students at all hours of the day via text messages, WhatsApps and emails. “I like the fact that I can be there for students even in these trying times.  It is just sad to come to empty corridors’.  She has been at the University for seven years.

Administrative assistant Thando Teyise, 43, likes that they have regular and social meetings, to keep in contact and boost morale.  She works with students’ academic records and now also student access to the computer labs.

Terry-Lane, 39, who has been with the University for more than a year, provides administrative and financial assistance to the lecturers, staff and students.  She also does events, bookings, departmental finances, marketing material and assists with workshops.  Returning to campus in June, she assisted with the safety measures.  She enjoys thinking out of the box for marketing material, posters and staff events and interacting with staff, students and guests in the department, including people from different continents.