Coping through COVID-19: VARSITY newspaper carries on

21 May 2020 | Story Tiyani Rikhotso. Photo Pexels. Read time 3 min.
“VARSITY” has adapted in order to continue to provide a platform for conversation, creativity and collaboration.
“VARSITY” has adapted in order to continue to provide a platform for conversation, creativity and collaboration.

COVID-19 has uprooted lives and shifted the way we engage, work and navigate our days. As a student-run newspaper focused on publishing bi-weekly print editions, there was a lot of uncertainty that came as the University of Cape Town (UCT) announced its campus shutdown. However, the paper has adapted in order to continue providing a platform for conversation, creativity and collaboration.

The main shift has been a focus on digital publishing platforms and driving traffic to the VARSITY website. In addition to sharing its editions on Issuu, VARSITY has partnered with Magzter – a cross-platform, self-service, global digital magazine newsstand – and the newspaper is now available alongside well-known titles such as the Mail & Guardian and City Press. Students can sign up to Magzter to access the newspaper and other freely listed publications.

New ways of work

The paper’s editorial staff has also had to find alternative ways to work and stay connected as the team is dispersed throughout the country. Newsroom, subbing and design have taken on new forms as the team now heavily relies on Zoom, Google Drive and WhatsApp. Despite grappling with the pressures of online learning, the home environment and lockdown restrictions, members of the VARSITY collective continue to dedicate themselves to the work that keeps the paper running.


“Members of the VARSITY collective continue to dedicate themselves to the work that keeps the paper running.”

The consistent contributions of writers on VARSITY’s mailing list has also ensured that it continues to publish compelling editions. Those interested in joining the mailing lists and writing for VARSITY can direct message the team through its social media platforms or access article briefs on the Vula tab through the “quick links” section on the homepage.

Creative plans in the works

A “Creative Contributions” section has also recently been added to the paper, where poems, photography and artworks sent in by students are published. Any contributions can be sent via email. In addition, VARSITY hosted a week-long journaling challenge and launched a bi-weekly book club that students can engage with on social media platforms.

VARSITY is currently planning its annual media conference, which will take place digitally due to the lockdown. Shifts in the academic calendar have also allowed the editorial teams to add more editions to the publication schedule.

In the words of VARSITY’s copy editor, Brad Brinkley: “It will take more than a global pandemic to keep us quiet.”

Access the digital versions of the paper.

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UCT’s response to COVID-19

COVID-19 is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March 2020 and to implement a national lockdown from 26 March 2020.

UCT is taking the threat of infection in our university community extremely seriously, and this page will be updated regularly with the latest COVID-19 information. Please note that the information on this page is subject to change depending on current lockdown regulations.


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Commemorating a year of COVID-19

At midnight on 26 March 2020, South Africa went into the first nationwide hard lockdown. A year later, we remember those who have died and those who have been affected by COVID-19, as well as the pandemic’s effects across society and campus. We are especially grateful for the front-line health workers who have done so much for so many.

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In an email to the UCT community, Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said:
“COVID-19, caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is a rapidly changing epidemic. [...] Information [...] will be updated as and when new information becomes available.”


We are continuing to monitor the situation and we will be updating the UCT community regularly – as and when there are further updates. If you are concerned or need more information, students can contact the Student Wellness Service on 021 650 5620 or 021 650 1271 (after hours), while staff can contact 021 650 5685.