When we embarked on online learning at the University of Cape Town (UCT), we knew it would not be an easy transition. Many of you are handling the new way of working, while some of you are not coping very well with the challenges you face. This is to be expected, especially considering the vastly different socio-economic conditions under which students are learning. So I want to thank you for doing the best you can under these difficult circumstances.
I want you to know that we have seen the resilience, perseverance and determination many of you have demonstrated, along with all the hard work you have put in, driven by the shared commitment to completing the academic year.
You are defying the odds, and we are very proud of you. If you are struggling, keep in mind that making the effort is half the battle won. We want to walk this journey with you as much as possible, so we want you to know about the types of student support available to each of you, even during the lockdown, through the Student Wellness Service (SWS) and the Office for Inclusivity and Change (OIC).
Dynamic peer counsellors in the SWS provide support to students (in English, isiXhosa and Afrikaans) through four focus areas:
Counselling: Telephonic or online counselling sessions are booked online, via email or through the UCT App. Common topics include academic concerns, relationship or family issues, adjustment difficulties, coping with anxiety or depression, and substance abuse.
Health and wellness: Peer counsellors focus on the maintenance and promotion of overall physical health and wellness, by offering education and awareness in collaboration with a medical team of nurses and doctors. Peer counsellors encourage students to have a balance between physical health, mental health and academic demands.
Socio-emotional adjustment: Adjusting to UCT was challenging, even before COVID-19 was added to the mix. Peer counsellors help students adjust to the new normal.
Academic support: Students often struggle with transitioning or adjusting to a new environment, and this can interfere with their academic progress. So peer counselling offers coping skills as well as helpful resources and information.
More information is available via these channels:
To continue supporting survivors of sexual assault, the OIC is running a weekly, online Survivor Support Group every Tuesday evening from 17:30 to 19:30. These groups will continue virtually until all staff and students have returned to campus.
Adjusting to this unusual period is taking a massive effort by all students and staff members. While we remain far apart from each other physically, we are still a campus community. The UCT executive is committed to continuing to support you as much as possible.
Stay safe and take care of yourselves and others by practising social distancing.
Professor Loretta Feris
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Transformation
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global pandemic that caused President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March and implement a national lockdown from 26 March. The intention of these drastic measures is to “flatten the curve” and contain the spread of the coronavirus to enable healthcare workers to more effectively treat those affected. Although South Africa has recently reached a peak of COVID-19 infections, the country is expecting a surge in positive cases in August.
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.
Getting credible, evidence-based, accessible information and recommendations relating to COVID-19
The Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, are producing educational video material for use on digital platforms and in multiple languages. The information contained in these videos is authenticated and endorsed by the team of experts based in the Department of Medicine. Many of the recommendations are based on current best evidence and are aligned to provincial, national and international guidelines. For more information on UCT’s Department of Medicine, please visit the website.
To watch more videos like these, visit the Department of Medicine’s YouTube channel.
As the COVID-19 crisis drags on and evolves, civil society groups are responding to growing and diversifying needs – just when access to resources is becoming more insecure, writes UCT’s Prof Ralph Hamann.03 Jul 2020 - 6 min read Republished
The Covid-19 crisis has reinforced the global consequences of fragmented, inadequate and inequitable healthcare systems and the damage caused by hesitant and poorly communicated responses.24 Jun 2020 - >10 min read Opinion
Our scientists must not practise in isolation, but be encouraged to be creative and increase our knowledge of the needs of developing economies, write Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice-chancellor of UCT, and Professor Thokozani Majozi from the University of the Witwatersrand.09 Jun 2020 - 6 min read Republished
South Africa has been recognised globally for its success in flattening the curve, which came as a result of President Ramaphosa responding quickly to the crisis, writes Prof Alan Hirsch.28 Apr 2020 - 6 min read Republished
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.