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In a symbolic gesture of peace and victory, every Nelson Mandela University staff member who overcomes COVID-19 will receive an olive tree sapling from the institution.

Additionally, the University will also recognise the recovery of these staff members through the online sharing of a Virtual Olive Tree on its website.  For every “cleared case” a leaf is added to the virtual tree to visually showcase the recoveries.

“We want to acknowledge and give thanks for each person’s recovery,” says Sister Valencia Benjamin, whose Occupational Health Services team has been at the frontline of COVID-19 Screening Surveillance at the University.

As of today, 18 August, 74 University staff members have contracted the virus, 68 of whom have recovered.  Sadly, five staff members, including the University’s own COVID-19 champion Professor Lungile Pepeta, have succumbed to the virus.  All 120 on-campus contacts related to these cases have been cleared.

The fruit-bearing Mission Olive saplings originally derived from the indigenous olive Olea europaea subsp. africana, are provided by the University’s own Horticulture Department.

These “Trees of Victory” are presented to staff members when they are officially declared fit to return to work.  Many staff members, however, are still working remotely, as this is the preferred institutional approach, where this is possible.

Those who have received their victory trees, suitable for either pots or gardens, have welcomed the gesture, and more especially the support provided throughout their recovery journey.

“Everyone was beyond professional, but more importantly, everyone was so kind and gentle and caring through every step and every process, I was required to go through,” says Skye Cronje, a Visual Art Laboratory Technician, of the support she received from the healthcare professionals from Occupational Health.

She says she heard from the team daily. “I had their complete support, which is so important for someone who lives alone.” Read Skye’s full story

The number of staff cases has steadily declined since the initial wave of on-campus contracts.

However, with the move to Level 2 of the country’s Risk-Adjusted Strategy, the University acknowledges the possibility of a second wave of infection as increasing numbers of staff and students return to campus.  All ten on-campus students, who tested positive for COVID-19, have been cleared.

SYMBOLIC SIGN … COVID-19 survivor Skye Cronje, a Visual Arts lab technician receives her “Tree of Victory”, an olive tree in recognition of her journey to recovery, from Occupational Health staff, Fiona Magnus (left) and Zubrina Baartman.

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057