As South Africans brace for a likely fourth wave of Covid-19 around November, the North-West University (NWU) is keeping the channels of communication open in a sea of confusion.
The institution hosted an online webinar on 31 August 2021 during which various issues were discussed with senior employees, partners and members of the business community. These issues included the NWU’s continued operations, the impact of Covid-19 on students, staff and communities, safety and transformation matters as well as a myriad of business-related concerns.
According to NWU principal and vice-chancellor Prof Dan Kgwadi, this engagement was necessitated since Covid-19 had made it impossible for the institution to gather in a face-to-face manner.
“We acknowledge that we do not have answers to all the questions,” said Mr Clement Manoko, executive director for Corporate Relations and Marketing. He advised attendees to rather opt for a more “solutions-oriented approach” to the challenges brought on by Covid-19.
Prof Kgwadi also said that the NWU is proud of its efforts to vaccinate as many people as possible across the vaccination sites on its three campuses. “We are in this together, and even though no one can prophecy how Covid-19 will pan out, we are committed to do our best,” he said.
However, according to Prof Daryl Balia, deputy vice-chancellor for information technology and Potchefstroom Campus operations, it is unlikely that the NWU will continue to provide vaccination sites indefinitely, given the implications for the university’s resources. He said this would also deviate from the NWU’s core business.
Prof Linda du Plessis, deputy vice-chancellor for planning and Vanderbijlpark Campus operations, shared that the NWU has lost an estimated R250 million in possible income, and that money also had to be spend at short notice to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the functioning of the university.
Despite the numerous challenges, Prof Kgwadi confirmed that the NWU would remain a contact university. Plans are afoot to vaccinate as many students and staff as possible, but in line with legislation, no person would be forced to do so at this stage.
The university also shared its plans to increase economic participation, particularly from previously disadvantaged communities, through the development of a database for service providers.
Issues of student safety will continue to be addressed through the Cachet Park initiative in Potchefstroom where 170 cameras are monitored around the clock. The same model is likely to be adopted at the Mahikeng and Vanderbijlpark campuses.
While still unclear at this stage, the NWU believes that it is on track to successfully complete the 2021 academic programme, with the 2022 academic year likely to commence around February, subject to government Covid-19 regulations and the projected release date of this year’s national matric results.
Should Covid-19 infections ease up, students can look forward to many NWU welcoming activities such as RAG, which could not take place during the past two years.