The first step to rebuilding

19 April 2021 | Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

Dear colleagues and students

I hope you are all well and in places of safety. I know many of you are feeling displaced – whether you are a student who had to be evacuated from your residence, or a staff member whose home may be in danger or whose University of Cape Town (UCT) workplace has been affected by the fire. Simply watching the destruction that unfolded yesterday can leave us feeling disoriented.

Each of us is coming to terms with the scale of what we are witnessing. In the midst of so much heartbreak, so many people across UCT and Cape Town provided rapid responses to this crisis yesterday. Your generosity and compassion have been overwhelming, and on behalf of UCT I thank you.

We all share a deep sense of grief for what we have lost. We join our colleagues at UCT Libraries, and academics around the world, in lamenting the destruction of the Jagger Library Reading Room and the priceless collections that were stored in the archives. Other UCT buildings across Rondebosch and Rosebank have been damaged. We are assessing the damage and will provide further updates as we are able.

The academic project, which is the heart of university life, has been disrupted. Our students were frightened yesterday and now they are anxious about their education. Many of our staff are concerned about their work or other valuable collections that are housed on campus.

While we are still dealing with the pandemic, this new ordeal has been placed on us. But here is what gives me hope: none of us faces this challenge alone. We can help each other to become stronger through these harsh circumstances. We can help each other to rise.

Before COVID-19 struck, UCT had already committed to the goal of Vision 2030: to unleash human capacity to create a fair and just society. To do so, we need to unleash our own capacity. This is our choice today: to grab the opportunity to grow within this challenge, knowing how hard it may be at times.

I know some of us are feeling overwhelmed now. Others will feel overwhelmed later. Choosing to ask for help from a trained counsellor is one of the ways we learn how to become stronger. So if you would like to contact a counsellor, the following services are available on a toll-free phone line:

  • SA Depression and Anxiety Group: 080 024 2526
  • ICAS: 080 111 3945

UCT will, of course, rebuild our facilities. We cannot replace the treasures of scholarship we have lost, but we can create new treasures out of our own scholarship. In the same way, each of us can rebuild our own sense of purpose out of this tragedy. To do so, we need to help each other. This is a team effort, and I convey my sincere gratitude for the commitment and help that you are all giving in the interest of UCT.

With your help, we will emerge stronger from this terrible episode.

Yours in rebuilding

Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
Vice-Chancellor


Please note: Donations can be made online through the UCT Alumni Ways to Give web page.

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In an email to UCT students, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“Thank you for your patience as we seek ways to return to full academic activity at the University of Cape Town under COVID-19 regulations. Our first priority is to ensure the health and safety of everyone who needs to return to campus buildings.”

UCT is deeply grateful to all the donors who supplied food and other essential items for our students, and to everyone who has so generously offered other forms of support and assistance.

Everyone who would like to support the #UCTFire emergency relief fund is urged to please make financial donations to UCT through the UCT Alumni Ways to Give web page.

Donations can also be made by EFT using the details below:
Account name: UCT Donations Account
Bank: Standard Bank of South Africa
Branch code: Rondebosch Branch, 025009
Account number: 07 152 2387
Swift code: SBZAZAJJ
Please include your donor name if you so wish, as well as the reference for your donation, e.g. Name Surname, #UCTFire.

Messages of support


Cengage EMEA 17:00, 7 June 2021
Ricardo de Sao Joao 16:00, 17 May 2021
J.P. Morgan 10:00, 17 May 2021
Unilever Southern Africa 16:10, 6 May 2021
Iziko Museums of South Africa 16:20, 5 May 2021
Sciences Po, France 10:05, 4 May 2021
The University of Tokyo 09:00, 30 April 2021
McCall MacBain Foundation 16:00, 29 April 2021
Stephen Toope, Chair of IARU 23:50, 27 April 2021
Mazi Asset Management 21:00, 27 April 2021
The National Archives (UK) 17:40, 27 April 2021
Universiteit Antwerpen 16:20, 26 April 2021
Yale University 21:15, 23 April 2021
SOAS University of London 17:00, 23 April 2021
University of Nairobi 15:45, 23 April 2021
Zhejiang University 12:05, 23 April 2021
University of Glasgow 11:20, 23 April 2021
Durham University 18:20, 22 April 2021
Sanlam Corporate Team 16:00, 22 April 2021
MANCOSA 16:00, 22 April 2021
Mastercard Foundation 13:30, 22 April 2021
National Research Foundation 09:05, 22 April 2021
Taylor & Francis 08:20, 22 April 2021
McGill University, Canada 21:35, 21 April 2021
Wild Bean Café 19:50, 21 April 2021
Worldwide Universities Network 19:10, 21 April 2021
University of Groningen 13:35, 21 April 2021
National University of Lesotho 11:00, 21 April 2021
Google South Africa 10:35, 21 April 2021
Chinese Ambassador Chen Xiaodong 09:00, 21 April 2021
George Whitefield College 08:40, 21 April 2021
Virginia Tech 02:00, 21 April 2021
University of Southampton 18:10, 20 April 2021
University of the Free State 17:25, 20 April 2021
KU Leuven 15:45, 20 April 2021
Northwestern University 15:45, 20 April 2021
Council on Higher Education 14:00, 20 April 2021
Times Higher Education 11:45, 20 April 2021
Regent Business School 11:15, 20 April 2021
Professor Crain Soudien 09:05, 20 April 2021
University of the Western Cape 09:00, 20 April 2021
Bishop Tshalo Katshunga 07:30, 20 April 2021
National Library of France 20:50, 19 April 2021
Thabo Mbheki Foundation 20:00, 19 April 2021
Stellenbosch University 19:10, 19 April 2021
Chinese Embassy in South Africa 17:20, 19 April 2021
University of Hull 17:00, 19 April 2021
University of Copenhagen 13:25, 19 April 2021
Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies 13:10, 19 April 2021
Mastercard Foundation 10:50, 19 April 2021
Stellenbosch University 09:20, 19 April 2021
Minister Blade Nzimande 09:15, 19 April 2021
Committee on Higher Education 09:10, 19 April 2021
University of the Witwatersrand 09:05, 19 April 2021
University of Pretoria 09:00, 19 April 2021

 

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