Returning UCT’s buildings to academic activity

21 April 2021 | Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

Dear students and colleagues

Thank you for your patience as we seek ways to return to full academic activity at the University of Cape Town (UCT) under COVID-19 regulations. We were hampered by the flare-ups of burning vegetation early this week and it has taken time to inspect the buildings while areas were still smouldering. I’m sure you understand that our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of everyone who needs to return to campus buildings.

I am writing to explain the process for resuming academic activities in the buildings on our Rondebosch campuses as quickly as possible.

We have brought an independent external technical team onto campus to work with UCT’s internal Operational Health & Safety (OHS) team, to assess the air quality in selected buildings that were not damaged by fire. These teams established a programme to ensure the air quality of campus buildings through appropriate ventilation and aeration before students and staff members return. Assuming there is no new flare-up of the fire on campus and no unexpected damage is found, this work will continue through Friday in some buildings. In addition, external cleaning services will help our UCT cleaning staff to prepare the buildings for use.

The Deans will work with heads of department and OHS staff to inspect their respective buildings. As each building is made ready, the Deans will inform their respective faculties on the schedule for reopening that building. This will commence on Thursday and we hope it will be completed on Friday.

Obviously, where there is significant damage, this process will take longer. The special collections, the Biological Sciences facilities housed in the Pearson Building and the upper campus residences are particular areas of concern. But we are looking for ways to mitigate the impact of these losses on the academic project.

Of course, as a campus community we will continue to adhere to COVID-19 protocols. Please remember to wear your masks, wash or sanitise your hands regularly and maintain a social distance of 1.5 m even while you are in evacuation accommodation. The fire has passed and that is a relief, but the pandemic remains a threat.

I wish you well in returning to the academic environment and to your research, teaching and learning.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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