It fills me with pride to see how the Stellenbosch University (SU) community is rallying in response to the disaster: For instance, our Food Science researchers turned stale bread into hand sanitiser; hundreds of Tygermaties volunteered to serve on the front line; 45 multidisciplinary coronavirus-related research projects and activities are unfolding in various environments across the University, and a record 3 278 graduands were awarded their qualifications in a virtual ceremony – a historic first for the University. That’s the Matie spirit!
SU has been closely monitoring developments surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak since the virus first made headlines at the start of the year. We set up an overarching Institutional Committee for Business Continuity early on to coordinate the University’s response to the crisis, keep SU sustainable and do everything we can to ensure that the 2020 academic year is completed successfully.
As can be expected, we are now putting significant effort into preparing for online teaching and learning to commence on 20 April, because, ultimately, no one knows how long the pandemic will last. Over the past number of years, SU has in any event been gradually increasing our hybrid and online teaching and learning offering. Now, the coronavirus pandemic has simply pressed the fast-forward button.
Of course, this shift will not be without its challenges. Nevertheless, our lecturers have been taking part in webinars about online teaching, and a special webpage has been created to provide students with tips on online learning. The University also confirmed that certain cellphone networks will be providing zero rated access for students connecting to its online learning and teaching platforms..
It has been encouraging to see what we can achieve by working together. Academic as well as professional administrative support staff have been working hard to ensure that our academic project can continue online. And students are preparing to resume their studies in this way after the current recess.
I want to thank our alumni for their support during this trying time. Our staff and students are heartened by the messages of encouragement and other forms of assistance. We appreciate it. Please visit the COVID-19 page on the SU website for regular updates.
We are going through a tough time, but we find solace in knowing that we are not alone. The whole world is in this together. And we must go forward together.
Please take care and stay safe.
Prof Wim de Villiers
Rector and Vice-Chancellor