Reducing COVID-19 risk and excelling in exams

22 June 2021 | VC Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng

Dear students and colleagues

As President Cyril Ramaphosa said on 15 June about the third wave of COVID-19, “[A]lthough we have reason to hope, we still have a mountain to climb.” For students and course convenors at the University of Cape Town (UCT), that mountain includes performing your best in the mid-year exams, which will begin on Wednesday, 23 June. Whether your assessment is online or in an invigilated exam venue on campus, this is a challenge where I am confident you can excel. You have worked hard this semester, with the important support of your family and friends. Now you have an opportunity to show how far you have come.

I want you to know that we have gone to extraordinary lengths to arrange exam venues that exceed the health and safety requirements for reducing COVID-19 infection. This includes not only cleaning the venue but also ensuring that ventilation meets safety standards; setting up a one-way system for leaving and entering the venue, for a safer flow of traffic; checking that everybody who enters the venue shows a Green daily status result on the UCT Health App. (If you cannot take an exam on a particular day because of an Amber or Red status, you can apply for a deferred exam for that day. Guidelines for this process are available on the Examinations website.)

The number of students sitting in invigilated exams is a very small proportion of our student body. The total we expect on each day ranges from about 1 700 to about 5 500, for up to 36 exams per day. In smaller exam venues, no more than 50 people will be allowed, seated at least 1.5 m apart. In larger venues, the Department of Higher and Education & Training allows for this limit to be relaxed for the purposes of exams only. In these venues, the seating will be 2 m apart as an added precaution.

While the risk can never be reduced to zero, we are confident that if we all carefully follow the procedures for the exams, then we should be able to help keep each other safe during this important time of assessment. As always, it is up to each of us to follow the protocols and to remind others kindly to do so.

  • Wear a face mask at all times in public, including on the way to and in the exam venue.
  • Keep a distance of at least 1.5 m from each other (seating in the exam venues has been arranged to maintain this distance).
  • Sanitise or wash your hands frequently, especially after gripping door handles, stair banisters or other public surfaces.

For first-year students, or students who were in their first year in 2020, this may be your first experience of invigilated exams. It may be the first time you come to campus this year, or get to see your classmates in person. COVID-19 is making this a strange time for all of us. In the midst of the strangeness, you have the opportunity, during your invigilated exams, to give your best work. I am confident you will be able to do so.

If you feel anxious about anything during the exam, please feel free to call on any of the staff members in your exam venue to assist you. They are there to assist you, because your success is proof of their success as your teachers. We are all part of a team.

That team includes your parents and friends who have supported you this far; and the many UCT staff members in Properties & Services, Campus Protection Services, the Department of Student Affairs, the Examinations Office and your faculty who have worked hard to ensure a successful and safe exam session. I express sincere thanks to each of these important people.

All the best for a successful consolidation and exam season.


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

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