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Change the world

02/06/2021

With a third wave of COVID-19 infections in South Africa upon us as also evidenced in the University’s own sharp increase of cases, it is critical that we each do what we can to counter this.

In addition, Nelson Mandela University, like the rest of the Metro, is faced with the “worst water crisis in living history”, a constant threat of load shedding and recently had to manage the resultant impact of taxi strikes on the institution in Gqeberha.

As a result of these exceptional circumstances, the University is constantly adapting plans and introducing measures to manage and address these challenges. Equally, it is calling on staff and students to support and be part of these solutions, despite understandable fatigue, in keeping one another safe as we continue with our academic project.

COVID-19 update

A return to adapted Level 2 lockdown restrictions, as announced this week, comes as South Africa’s COVID-19 infections continue to rise by 4000 new cases daily, and around 70 deaths. The University’s own cases have jumped to 19, with five having recently recovered, following weeks of no cases.

The increase has seen an off-campus residence and one class being placed in quarantine as per the national cluster management protocols. Affected students are either isolating at their homes, their residence rooms or at identified private off-campus venues. The Metro is presently only providing an isolation ward at Livingstone Hospital.

The 12 staff members from various sectors of the University and who are working from home and presently have, or had, COVID-19 and seven students are all being virtually monitored by the University’s nursing staff daily.

Vaccination Rollout 

The increase in infections, comes as the first part of Phase 2 of the national vaccination rollout slowly gets underway for those over the age of 60. Several staff members who have registered with the national Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) have received the first of two jabs of the Pfizer vaccine at one of the few vaccination centres presently operating in the Metro.

The University is on track to also become an accredited vaccination centre with only a few outstanding infrastructure requirements to complete before final approval is received from the Department of Health.

Water Crisis

With Day Zero for some parts of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro predicted for 1 July, we need to do all that we can to save water. The combined capacity of the Metro’s feeder dams presently stands at 12% despite the good rains of the weekend.

Failure to decrease our water usage means that we will eventually not be able to operate from our Mandela campuses with our present numbers.

Various interventions have been, and are being, introduced to reduce water use, especially in our residences, which are presently 94% full.

The University is using technology, diversifying its water sources, (such as using grey water), and embarking on a SAVE WATER NOW campaign to change present water consumption habits as part of its water management strategy. Water metres, for example, have been introduced at 54 different sites to measure consumption, including our residences to ensure that we do not use more than the present 50 litres per person per day limit.

Support for the Academic Programme

In the face of the aforementioned challenges (along with the taxi strikes of last week) however, the University remains focused on keeping staff and students safe.

Sustainable solutions to the present data costs (the University subsidises all students with 30GB of data each month through an arrangement with the mobile network operators), for example, are being sought, especially with mid-year assessments looming.

The day/night split of 10GB and 20GB respectively has now been reversed, and the University has also asked those students who have easy access to good WiFi to opt-out of the monthly data subscription in a bid to cut costs.

The University’s commitment towards improving the quality of its online engagement and the integrity of the assessment process, however, is reliant on data, and so low-data alternatives are also being sought, and the possibility of a reverse billing option is being explored. However, students without laptops and with data challenges are encouraged to use our general computer labs which can also be accessed on Saturday and Sunday mornings for the reminder of the semester.

The need to able to work and study remotely becomes all the more important as infections rise and the dam levels sink. Nonetheless, we are exploring safe transport options for students who need to travel to our campuses to do their online learning and assessments in our general computer labs.

As solutions are found, so they will be communicated.

Seeking Ongoing Support

The University will continually adapt in the face of so many challenges and needs your support to this end, particularly in practicing all COVID-19 preventative measures and in saving water both on and off campus.

We can delay the rise in infections and the drop in our dam levels through our collective and individual actions. This contribution and our encouragement of others to do likewise, will help us to endure as we look forward to a scaling up of the vaccination rollout and an eventual end to the pandemic.

Coronavirus Task Team  

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057
debbie.derry@mandela.ac.za