Dear students and colleagues
This has been an historic year for the University of Cape Town (UCT), for many reasons. The major event we experienced as a campus community, of course, is the Table Mountain Fire. It destroyed the Jagger Reading Room and many of our special collections, as well as other buildings. It did additional damage to other facilities on campus. That tragedy tested our courage, resilience, compassion and community spirit. I remain so proud of the students and staff members who served far beyond the call of duty, during the fire; in the aftermath, when we needed volunteers to help retrieve damaged materials from the UCT Libraries archives; and in the continuing work to restore our campus by “building back better”.
Our roots extend far beyond our campus, so your loved ones are our loved ones. To help you protect yourself and them from COVID-19 infection, we opened the UCT Community of Hope Vaccination Centre, in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Health. The onset of the fourth wave and the new Omicron variation makes vaccination all the more essential. If you have not yet had your jab, I encourage you to do so, for your own sake and that of others.
I remind you that Council approved mandatory vaccinations in principle in October. On 4 December, Council approved the policy framework for mandatory vaccinations, which UCT will now seek public consultation on before the draft policy is considered by Council for final decision in 2022.
Council approved a “wellness break” for staff from 27 to 31 December 2021, in recognition of the extra-hard work and dedication to the university that was demonstrated by our colleagues to keep the academic enterprise going despite so many obstacles. Every UCT staff member deserves this break and we hope it affords you more time to spend with family and friends.
It is important to recognise that this can be a difficult time of year for many people. The loss of loved ones, economic hardships and other challenges are taking their toll on many of us. Just taking a break may not be enough to restore our equilibrium. I encourage students and staff members to reach out to the appropriate service for the free resources that are available to you:
We want this end-of-year break to be a positive time for all. On that note, I wish you well over this festive season and I look forward to reconnecting with you in 2022.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
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