UCT needs your support now more than ever

20 April 2020 | From Kgethi

Dear parents, guardians and sponsors of UCT students

Today our students began a week of online orientation to prepare for the start of the second term on 28 April at the University of Cape Town (UCT). This is a new experience for them. We expect many questions and anxieties about continuing classes remotely. While we have a full spectrum of student support in place at UCT, the most important support will come from you. As you help your child to create space and time in the home to manage a study schedule, I ask you to also help them deal with any worries that might arise. Your encouragement is vital to build the confidence to embark on this online programme.

UCT students who have questions about emergency remote learning should contact their faculty supervisors, course lecturers and tutors via email and Vula, the dedicated student platform. We will do all we can to respond to these questions. We have also made provision for students to reduce their course load if necessary, and to get additional help when campus reopens. We are committed to each student’s success. You can play a vital role in helping to keep their spirits up during this time.

We are all dealing with the strange reality that the COVID-19 pandemic and national lockdown have created. UCT is making every possible effort to complete the academic year successfully, despite the enormous challenges we face. This has involved an incredible level of commitment by academics, tutors, faculty members, professional and support staff across UCT. In a very short time, they have adapted lesson plans to ensure that class materials and lectures are available to students during lockdown.

The plan makes full use of the university’s investments in technology, infrastructure and expertise developed over the past few years – all part of UCT’s long-term plan to create the best possible teaching and learning environment. Digital connectivity, for instance, gives students more flexibility in managing their course assignments, and the convenience of reviewing lectures and asking questions online at any hour.

UCT has provided unusual levels of support to students during this crisis. This includes transportation for those who needed it to return home ahead of lockdown; surveying students about their ability to work from home; accessing and providing laptop computers on loan to students who meet the criteria; setting up a Call Centre and Referral System to handle student queries about connectivity as well as health and pyscho-social issues; developing an online orientation programme for emergency remote learning; reaching successful agreements with all four of South Africa’s major service providers for zero rated access to university online platforms; increasing support for student counselling over the phone and online; as well as the unexpected expenses necessary to make as much teaching as possible available online. We are setting up an additional system to distribute printed learning materials and USB drives for students who cannot access the internet in any form.

This week we will begin providing 30GB data bundles to all students who have valid South African cell numbers with any of the four major operators, along with the delivery of laptop computers on loan to qualifying students.

This is in addition to UCT’s work with government to seek a potential vaccine, provide low-cost personal protection equipment for healthcare workers, and deal with the increased healthcare needs of the province. But our primary focus is to ensure that every student can complete the academic year successfully. The entire university is invested in getting every student through this difficult period, both academically and emotionally. We will continue to assess what works, identify problems and develop solutions. We are determined to conclude the academic year with as little delay as possible.

UCT is a community of people – researchers, lecturers, and professional and support staff – who are committed to developing African skills and creativity to solve global problems. COVID-19 is just such a challenge, requiring UCT to take on an enormous level of additional costs to support students. You can assist in this important task by helping your child through this crisis.

Thank you for your continued support.

With kind regards,

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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