Coronavirus: NWU communiques

NWU communiques regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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 29 May 2020: Details regarding the return to campuses

Dear student,

I trust that you are keeping healthy and are busy with your online or distance education programmes.

The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation announced a risk adjusted strategy in terms of the limited return of students to universities under alert levels 4 and 3. In implementing the guidelines provided by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) to all higher education institutions concerning the phased-in approach of students to campuses of the NWU, the following need to be borne in mind.

  • Any student who can complete their online programme from home is encouraged to do so and will not be compelled to return to campus. Our academic programmes will continue to be offered online, and in distance mode. Assessments will be conducted in such a way that you can complete them without being on campus.
  • Our phased-in approach in compliance with the 33% DHET guidelines is applied to each campus of the university as part of Phase 1 (Level 3 of the lockdown). Details below describe Phase 1 as it relates to teaching-learning.


Phase 1: Teaching-learning

The return to campus is applicable in Phase 1, and in compliance with the Minister’s statement to two groups of students. The first group comprises those students who need the use of specialised teaching-learning facilities or equipment. The laboratories, workshops and other facilities associated with these programmes will be subject to strict social distancing, cleaning and other protocols.

The following constitutes the first group to be considered eligible to return:

(i) Final year students who require access to labs, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to residence and private accommodation;

(ii) Students, in all years of study, who require clinical training in their programmes (provided that the clinical training platforms have sufficient space and can accommodate them while adhering to the safety protocols); and

(iii) Postgraduate students who require lab equipment and other technical equipment to undertake their studies.

The second group included in Phase 1 and who will be allowed to return to campuses are those students who have chosen the paper-based distance modality. These students will be expected to still pursue the programme as outlined in their paper-based course-pack, and will be able to access the online resources on their return to campus, to support their studies.

The two groups have been identified in close collaboration with faculties and will be notified on 5 June via an sms. The sms from the university is your proof that you are part of the two groups of students that can return to campus as part of Phase 1. You will then also be issued with a permit the week thereafter that will allow you to travel to your campus. Please only travel to the campus after receiving your permit.

Unless described above, all other students will be considered only in terms of later phases for reintegration of students and we will be guided by the relevant Government directives. The reasons for this are self-explanatory, and are in the interests of our students and staff’ health and well-being.

Phase 1: NWU residences or off-campus accommodation

Phase 1 entails that students (in the two groups) identified above for a return to campus, will also be allowed to return to campus-based residences, or off-campus accommodation. No student, not identified as part of Phase 1, will be allowed to return to a campus-based residence. The university is not able to issue permits to students in private off-campus accommodation, who are not already part of the groups identified as part of Phase 1 and such students will also not be allowed to return to campus, and by implication will not be permitted to use campus-based facilities, or to visit students on the campuses.

There will be daily screening of all students, staff and visitors at all entrances of the university. All the necessary protocols including hygiene and social distancing protocols will be compulsory for everyone on campus. These measures are aimed to manage the infection risks and curb the spread of the virus.

Phase 1 students are expected to return between Wednesday 17 June 2020 and Sunday 21 June 2020. Students designated to return to campus will be provided with an electronic travel permit via their cell-phone number. To avoid long queues, we will indicate the particular day/s on which you are to return.

International Students: Please contact us at shernice.soobramoney@nwu.ac.za for assistance or information regarding restrictions for international travel and closure of South African points of entry

Please contact your faculty for any inquiries regarding your anticipated return to campus and to the teaching learning programme as part of Phase 1.

It must be emphasised again that all measures put in place as part of the reintegration of our students, are done with the primary aim of working towards the successful completion of the academic programme, while simultaneously ensuring a healthy and safe environment.

To our students not designated as part of Phase 1, please continue with your online learning programme until further notice. Details regarding Phase 2 (Level 2 of the lockdown) will be shared with you pending further guidelines issued by the DHET.

Stay well and keep up with your studies.

Kind regards,
 
Prof Kgwadi
Vice chancellor and Principal

25 May 2020: Impact of Level 3 announcement on the return of students

During the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation’s briefing on Saturday, 23 May, he indicated that under Level 3 of the lockdown, only a maximum of 33% of the student population will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences on condition that they can be safely accommodated and supported in line with the applicable health and safety protocols. The following cohorts are included:
 
  • All groups that have already returned during alert Level 4.
  • Students in the final year of their programmes, who are on a path to graduating in 2020.
  • Final year students who require access to laboratories, technical equipment, data, connectivity and access to residence and private accommodation.
  • Students in all years of study that require clinical training in their programmes (provided that the clinical training platforms have sufficient space and can accommodate them while adhering to the safety protocols); and 
  • Postgraduate students who require laboratory equipment and other technical equipment to undertake their studies. 
 
In addition to the above, the Minister indicated that institutions may also consider selected return of other categories of students to residences who may face extreme difficulties in their home learning environments provided that the above categories are prioritised, and all safety and logistical requirements are met. 
 
Of great importance is the fact that the Minister made it clear that institutions will start their re-integration of students two to three weeks after the country has moved to Level 3, which is indicated to be on 1 June. This depends largely on the readiness and capacity of each institution. In other words, a period of two to three weeks will be given to allow students to travel back to their campuses and institutions to ensure that the campuses are effectively prepared for the return. The Minister also indicated that the Ministry will publish directions in terms of the Disaster Management Act to permit such travel, after which institutions will issue travel permits to identified students.
 
We have prepared a holistic plan regarding our multi-modal learning through distance and online learning, and we will continue with that to ensure that we work towards the successful completion of the academic year. The academic calendar will be published soon and this will also give our students a more detailed picture of how we envisage to move towards the completion of the year.
 
In order to adhere to the Minister’s announcement, the various faculties will now prioritise their planning in terms of which students will be allowed to return. Together with that, the university will continue to put in place all measures to ensure adherence to national guidelines. This will apply to all campus facilities, including residences.
 
As soon as the students who may return under Level 3 of the lockdown have been identified, communication with them will take place. I need to reiterate the Minister’s message that no student will be forced to return to campus as long as they are fearful of their wellness and safety. Students who are ill, must not return to campuses. 
 
Whilst we are planning for the return of students, our multi-modal offerings are continuing and we encourage students to fully engage with their studies and contact their lecturers whenever the need arises. 
 
The reintegration plan for students will also have a direct impact on the reintegration plan for staff. In this regard, there will also be specific communication to affected staff members.
 
I know that many of our staff and students are anxious to return to the campuses, but we must ensure that we take all steps to protect you. We must avoid an outbreak of the virus on any of our campuses.
 
Please continue to focus on your learning and stay safe. 
 
Thank you
Prof. Dan Kgwadi 
Vice-chancellor and Principal 

11 May 2020: Cleaning of NWU residences

Dear residence student
 
We have embarked upon a process to prepare all relevant facilities including our university residences for a possible return of students to campuses whenever the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation declares a phased-approach for universities. The preparation of residences across our campuses as part of curbing the spread of the coronavirus will involve a thorough cleaning in accordance with applicable health and safety regulations. This intensive cleaning entails: 
 
a) Access to all residences and rooms;
b) Identification of items with potential health risks;
c) Removal of items that have clearly gone bad;
d) Thorough cleaning and sanitation of the rooms; and 
e) Fumigation.  
 
We are aware of students’ concerns at other institutions; please be assured that the cleaning at our university will be done responsibly and under very strict control measures to, among others, safeguard students’ personal belongings. 
Keep safe and continue to assist us in working towards the successful completion of the academic year. 
 
Regards
 
Prof Dan Kgwadi
Vice-Chancellor and Principal 

1 May 2020: The immediate way forward for our students

Dear student

During the past two weeks, we have ventured into unchartered waters and have finished our orientation period for online learning. The online teaching and learning programme which will involve assessments commences on 4 May 2020. We are all aware that it is not the same comprehensive experience as it would have been in a face-to-face situation in lecture rooms. Management shares your concerns and that of our lecturers about the big adjustment brought about by online learning. 

It is a very steep learning curve for everyone, and we are constantly dealing with the adjustments which we all have to make. We remain conscious of the issue of inequality among our students, and are working tirelessly towards putting in place measures to ensure that all our students have opportunity to complete the 2020 academic year successfully.

The measures put in place by the North-West University since the beginning of March 2020 to address the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and to protect our staff and students as well as our envisaged way of taking teaching and learning forward, are completely in line with the announcements made by the Minister of Higher Education and Training on 30 April 2020. 

Data provision
We will be issuing contact students in need of data (as was indicated by your responses to the multiple SMS and online surveys that we have sent out through the course of April) by the 5th of May 2020 as a once-off and initial enabler to support students to get online. The various network service providers have approved the zero-rating of the NWU’s main webpage [www.nwu.ac.za] and eFundi as our main teaching-learning sub-domain(s) in different ways. 
We are working towards a standardised understanding and application and will update you accordingly. For now, no data charges apply for Cell C, Vodacom and Telkom, while MTN is only offering 500MB for its subscribers to use these sites. Please take note that no other sites are supported by this arrangement. It is once again reiterated that the data supplied should be used for teaching-learning purposes only, and should be used sparingly.

Delivery of laptops
To date, we have managed to source 3500 laptops. The delivery of these to identified students will commence during the first week of May 2020. Identified students can expect personal communication soon.
These laptops have been prioritised for students who have access to electricity and connectivity and are in desperate need of a laptop to enable them to complete their qualification by the end of this academic year. Please be assured that the NWU is exploring different options to obtain more devices. One of these is the Covid-19 Response Fund which has been launched recently. The main objective of this fund is to secure funds from a variety stakeholders to further support our students with laptops/devices, as we know that other students not necessarily in their final year of study, also have a need of devices to study online.

Connectivity 
Students who cannot study online due to poor connectivity or lack of access to electricity will be receiving printed study materials with study guidance so as to enable them to participate in teaching and learning while not being able to return to campus. For these students, we are planning a return to campuses that will coincide with a Winter School during which first semester work and assessments can be completed to ensure that every student has an opportunity to complete the semester. 

Collection of study material and other personal items
We are aware that some students have left their academic material and other much needed items such as clothing at the residences or their place of residence at the various campuses. We continue to receive inquiries from students who want to return to their residences to collect their study materials. Even though we have much empathy in this regard, I must reiterate that this is impossible at the moment due to the travel limitations and requirement for permits to do so, and no students will be allowed onto any of the campuses for this purpose. The university can only issue permits for essential services as outlined in the Covid-19 regulations.

Conditions for returning to campuses
As was announced by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology on 30 April 2020, the whole of the higher education sector will not resume with campus-based academic activity during the Level Four (4) lockdown period. The only exception will be the controlled return of final year clinical training (medical) students, under strict conditions, to also directly assist with the health management campaign of the Department of Health. Communication to these students will be on an individual basis after further consultation with the relevant stakeholders. The students should not return to campuses unless they have been instructed to do so. 

During this period the university will continue the delivery of online learning (with distance learning as an alternative), and will constantly work towards refining these modes. The extent of further measures to be announced remains unknown and even when we get to a point where more relaxations in terms of the national lockdown are announced, it is still envisaged that a phased approach will be adopted to allow students back onto the campuses. This would mean that not all students will be allowed back at the same time due to the fact that national guidelines regarding gatherings, social distancing, and screening may still have to be adhered to.

Your responsibility
Measures have been put in place by the university to ensure that students are afforded the opportunity to continue with their academic programme and to allow us to work towards the successful completion of the academic year. However, we cannot do this alone and you as a student also has the responsibility to actively engage with lecturers and constantly monitor eFundi to ensure that you do not fall behind.

Please also continue to check the university website http://www.nwu.ac.za/coronavirus regularly for information updates. It remains the primary official communication channel with all our students, irrespective of all the other communication channels used to reinforce messaging or for the sharing of information.
Please ensure that your contact details are up to date by accessing the Contact Details App on the DIY Services portal (http://diyservices.nwu.ac.za/apps) ASAP. 

Academic calendar
You will be updated accordingly as soon as the new academic calendar has been approved by Senate. 
As was previously announced, there will be no conventional invigilated examinations during the first semester. All schools in all faculties have re-planned module assessments to ensure that a module mark can be obtained by the submission of continuous assessment opportunities. The necessary arrangements will be communicated to every student by the school concerned. Once again, I want to assure students who cannot yet access the online programme that submission dates for assessments will be flexible to offer you a chance to build up a module mark, even if this is only possible during the planned Winter or Summer Schools. 

Enquiries

General enquiries: email to nwu-covid19@nwu.ac.za
Online learning assistance: services.nwu.ac.za/KeepOnTL
Other enquiries (data, connectivity, devices, and finances):


I want to assure you that we will endeavour to support you as best it is humanly possible. Please stay healthy and spend your time wisely towards the achievement of your academic goals.

Best wishes
Prof Dan Kgwadi
Vice-Chancellor and Principal   

30 April 2020: Zero-rating and data

Dear student

I hope this note finds you all well. The various network service providers have approved the zero-rating of the NWU’s main webpage [www.nwu.ac.za] and eFundi as our main teaching-learning sub-domain(s) in different ways. We are working towards a standardised understanding and application and will update you accordingly. For now, no data charges apply for Cell C, Vodacom and Telkom, while MTN is only offering 500MB for its subscribers to use these sites. Please take note that no other sites are supported by this arrangement.

Zero-rating means that all content and resources on eFundi can be browsed and downloaded for free. The data option on the device being used must be turned ON, but you will not need data to participate in teaching, learning and assessment on eFundi. You can use your cell phone as a hotspot and use your laptop to navigate to the website(s).

We will be issuing contact students in need of data (as was indicated by your responses to the multiple SMS and online surveys that we have sent out through the course of April) by the 5th of May 2020 as a once-off and initial enabler to support students to get online.  If you have not received an SMS from the NWU to participate in the surveys, your contact details are outdated and you need to update them ASAP by accessing the Contact Details App on the DIY Services portal (http://diyservices.nwu.ac.za/apps). We urgently need your correct contact details to ensure that you are assisted to continue your studies.

Please take note that the data supplied should be used for teaching-learning purposes only and is active for thirty days from inception on 5 May. This is meant in addition to the zero-rating to assist you in getting online. The data should thus last you the whole of May. Once you have received an SMS from the NWU, your data will be added automatically by your provider.

For those who have indicated that they are not able to get online because of connectivity challenges, alternative measures are being finalised in order to assist you. Communication in this regard will follow. 

We wish all our students well in terms of their participation in the teaching-learning programme and will endeavour to support you as best we can.

Enquiries can be directed to any of the following:

Regards

Prof Robert Balfour
DVC: Teaching and Learning 

20 April 2020: Update on progress made towards the full implementation of online learning

20 April 2020

The University Management Committee (UMC) held an extraordinary meeting today, 20 April, to assess progress made towards full implementation of the online teaching and learning mode. The executive deans and the Executive Committee of our Student Representative Council (SRC) attended the meeting. These key stakeholders were invited to the meeting to ensure that the decisions that we take are inclusive of the views of our academic staff and students. All parties at the meeting acknowledged the huge challenges that we are faced with in dealing with the effects of COVID-19 and agreed that a multi-pronged approach is necessary for us to address the teaching and learning challenges.

I am pleased to update you as follows;  

1.Data

The University has concluded agreements with the four telecommunication companies (Telkom, Cell C, MTN and Vodacom) for zero-rating of our relevant subsites. This means that our staff and students will be able to access study material and information on eFundi and other subsites on our website at no charge. We are aware of the technical problems that some of our staff and students have encountered with some of the telecommunication companies. We have received confirmation from our technical team and the companies involved that the problems have been resolved.    

We are aware that there are NSFAS- qualifying students who do not receive funding at this stage. These students will be prioritised for a minimum of 10 Gb offer that will be made available to students at a cost to the university.  We have also entered into agreements with telecommunication companies for reverse-billing in order to facilitate free access to the most relevant and necessary study material. Further announcements will be made in this regard.

2.Devices

We are in the process of acquiring a significant number of laptops/devices that will be issued to qualifying students. The focus will be on students without any device.  The criteria and application process for the laptops/devices will be communicated soon.  These devices will be issued on a loan or rental basis to students. The rental charge will be reversed once the device is returned in a good and working condition, otherwise it will be charged to the student’s account. 

3.Connectivity

The students who have indicated that they have a network connectivity problem will not benefit from laptops/devices. However, we need these students to continue with their studies and not be left behind. Therefore, arrangements will be made to deliver printed material(s) to these students on a regular basis depending on their study needs.

The planned winter-school and summer-school will present an additional study opportunity for all students to participate and improve their studies.  

The extended orientation period (17 – 30 April), as communicated to all staff and students, entails that teaching would continue. However, no assessments or assignments will take place during this period. We will continue to monitor the situation and respond accordingly to ensure that your interests are prioritised.

We remain focused and resolute to ensure that we complete the academic year without disadvantaging any of our staff and students. We are traversing a road never travelled; thus I urge all staff and students to appreciate the nature of the problem, its unpredictability and the need to work together as a united NWU community to find solutions that fit our unique environment.

Thank you
Prof. Dan Kgwadi
Vice-chancellor and Principal
 

19 April 2020: Vice-chancellor's message on graduation ceremonies

19 April 2020 

As you read my message, listen to our graduation song

As was previously communicated, all physical graduation ceremonies (undergraduate and postgraduate) that were scheduled to take place until the end of May 2020 have been cancelled. This includes the handing-over ceremonies that would have taken place at other venues other than our three campuses. 

The relevant degrees and diplomas will be conferred and awarded in absentia, and the certificates of each ceremony would be sent by courier as close as possible to the date of the awarding/conferral as captured on the official student record and as contained in the relevant degree programme. 

If at all possible and doable, graduates who have missed out on their ceremonies would be invited during the second semester to walk over the stage and to have their official photographs taken. 

In addition to the use of courier services to distribute certificates to graduates, we are investigating the possibility of making certificates available in a digitized format, and to refer graduates to the relevant portal where these would be stored. 

Due to the lockdown, we are unable to print and courier certificates. We shall attend to the production and distribution of certificates after the lockdown. 

Once the certificates are produced, all measures would be put in place to courier these individually to each graduand after the completion of the necessary financial clearance which is currently underway. 

Other means and ways are currently under investigation to inform graduands as soon as possible of the status of their qualifications. In this regard, a letter will be generated from the system and signed accordingly and confirming the graduation status of each student. A video message conferring and awarding your degrees and certificates will be distributed via our official communication channels soon.  

I know how important this matter is to all our graduands. You have worked hard to obtain your qualification, and we are just as proud of you as your family and friends.

We are doing everything possible to ensure that you receive the necessary documentation of your qualifications. You will be kept abreast of any developments on this matter. I look forward to your continued association with the NWU as proud alumni and ambassadors. All the best in your career and please keep safe.

Kind regards
Prof Dan Kgwadi
Vice-chancellor and Principal

19 April 2020: Extension of the orientation period for online learning

19 April 2020

Dear staff and students 

The uncertainty and challenges related to COVID-19 continue to affect all of us in ways unimaginable. Since the implementation of the orientation programme for online learning on 17 April, the University management has been receiving large numbers of complaints and questions regarding connectivity and devices, as well as the potential exclusive nature of the online learning. The feedback that we have received since the 17th suggests that the alternative plans that are put in place to address this problem are not sufficient enough to avoid the inequalities and lived experiences of a significant number of our students. 

Our plans to secure laptops/devices for students have taken longer to realise than anticipated for two reasons. First, because our university, like all other higher education institutions, is continuously engaging with telecommunication companies to get the best and cost-effective solutions for our students. And secondly, because we need to ascertain who among our students need either data, or devices, or both, or who need their study materials packaged either electronically, or in paper format to reach remote areas where both connectivity and electricity are not available. In this regard, we are busy reconciling the results of the surveys that were conducted recently and envisage to commence with implementation as soon as the process has been concluded.   
As indicated previously, we have successfully negotiated zero-rating for a significant number of our subsites and portals such as eFundi with telecommunications companies. We have noted feedback from students that they were still unable to access some of the sites and we are following up on these with the telecommunications companies concerned. We anticipate the problems to be resolved as quickly as possible and continuously attend to any problems that may arise during the implementation of online teaching and learning mode of delivery 

The University management has resolved to prolong the orientation for online learning until 30 April and use the time to address our students’ specific needs – lack of access to devices, connectivity and electricity.  During this orientation period (17 – 30 April) there will be no tests or assessments of whatever kind. We remain fully committed to continue with the implementation of alternative teaching and learning modes – online, distance learning, and winter and summer school(s). Our commitment is anchored by the values of inclusiveness and ethic of care. We are aware that some students are ready to commence with the academic programme online ASAP. We appreciate the concerns shared with us, and understand the frustrations experienced. 

Please continue with the planning processes to ensure that we are ready for implementation when all matters have been resolved. 


Thank you

Prof. Dan Kgwadi
NWU Vice-chancellor and Principal


16 April 2020: Important information: Continuation of the academic programme

16 April 2020

Dear Student

Thank you again for your patience and responses to the survey regarding online learning. I fully acknowledge the problems and challenges faced by some of our students in terms of devices and access to network services and data. However, we are facing an unprecedented situation that needs us to embrace new ways of teaching-learning while making alternative arrangements that would ensure that all our students complete the academic year. To this end, the NWU will commence with introduction to online learning (with distance learning as an alternative) on 17 April 2020 via the eFundi platform. The initial few days, from the 17th onwards (Friday, Monday and Tuesday) will be spent assisting students with an orientation to online learning which is envisaged to take place for the remainder of the semester, or until further notice. For students who cannot go online from 17 April, the university is finalising alternative plans for you to have an opportunity to complete the semester.

Getting started with online learning

The period 17 to 21 April will be used as an orientation period to ensure that those students who can continue online are prepared and equipped to do so and to allow us to fully engage with the academic programme from 22 April. You will shortly start receiving communication from faculties, schools and module lecturers regarding the way forward.

In putting in place multiple modalities for teaching and learning, we want to demonstrate our commitment to ensure that all our students have an opportunity to complete the semester. We remain committed to providing access to students to the teaching-learning programme in the online and/or the distance modality. This entails ensuring, as far as reasonable, that teaching and learning resources (reading materials, PowerPoint slides with additional explanations of concepts, short video clips, learning guidelines, assessments, and other related resources) are available online and accessible to students (also in printed format if necessary as soon as the lock-down is relaxed and we can make use of printing and courier services, and services available at our learning support centres nationally).

It is of utmost importance to ensure that whatever measures are put in place they should not be to the detriment of any of our students. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that no students are left behind. For students without access to online teaching and learning, and in the event that the lock-down is prolonged and the university cannot make use of the distance mode to service these students, the faculties are already preparing for a “catch-up” programme (in the form of Winter and Summer Schools as planned for on the reconfigured calendar for the year- more details on this to follow). These will be implemented as soon as contact students can return to campuses and distance students again have access to learning support centres. The Winter school is envisaged during the June-July period and if need be, a Summer school during December. Full details will be supplied at a later stage.

Connectivity, Data and Devices

Many students are struggling with data or connectivity. This matter is constantly being addressed not only by the university, but also by the higher education sector in conjunction with the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology. We have already been successful with negotiations regarding zero-rating of certain university’s subsites and portals with some telecommunication companies. We will continue negotiations with the four major suppliers (MTN, Vodacom, Telkom and Cell C) to ensure full zero-rating for all relevant NWU subsites. eFundi is already one of the sites which will be free from 17 April. Apart from what was already put in place, the option of reverse billing will also be implemented. This will imply that students would still be able to access the university’s website and subsites needed to continue with online learning, but that the university will stand in for the bill in this regard. The primary objective is to zero rate as many URL’s as possible. In addition to this, the university will reverse bill, as far as possible, most popular URLs used for teaching-learning and research. Please keep in mind that apart from the measures explained, there still might be a possibility that certain websites/subsites would not be included. However, as a result of the provisions already made, this will most probably be to a lesser extent. I want to assure you that alternatives will continuously be explored to empower all our students and staff.

It is also acknowledged that some of our students will be struggling due to the lack of devices. We are looking at possibilities to ensure that the academic offerings are provided in a low technology format; thus ensuring easier access. We are also exploring further options to address this matter and will communicate with students who have indicated this as a problem. For students living in remote areas and who cannot go online, the university will endeavour to make available alternative teaching-learning and assessment opportunities to assist with the completion of the semester. If you live in a remote area with poor or little connectivity, please contact your module lecturer and alert them of this, providing your name and student number. This will help us to plan to reach out to you once the lockdown has been lifted, in the form of distance education provision.

June Examinations

There will be no conventional invigilated examination during the first semester. All schools in all faculties have re-planned module assessments to ensure that a module mark can be obtained by the submission of continuous assessment opportunities. The necessary arrangements will be communicated to every student by the school concerned. Once again, I want to assure students who cannot yet access the online programme that submission dates for assessments will be flexible to offer you a chance to build up a participation and ultimately a module mark, even if this is only possible during the planned Winter or Summer Schools.

Need your learning materials and books?

We are aware that some students have left their academic material at the residences or their place of residence at the various campuses. We continue to receive inquiries from students who want to return to their residences to collect their study materials. I reiterate that this is impossible at the moment due to the travel limitations and requirement for permits to do so, and no students will be allowed onto any of the campuses for this purpose. Students should please get in contact with their lecturers in charge of the modules concerned. The lecturer(s) will consider whether the textbook can be placed online in e-format, OR if this is not possible, then the lecturer will alert Library Information Services so that they can make arrangements for the e-text to be made available as soon as possible.

A process will also unfold to allow optimal utilisation of cell phones by students for purposes of accessing learning opportunities. Faculty call centres are established to enable the correct channeling of student requests to the relevant academic staff members. This will involve eFundi support as well as academic support. Please check out the webpages and watch your phones for contact details.

Practical work

Many courses involve practical work, and in this regard, a decision has been taken that practical work will mostly be addressed during the second semester. The first semester will continue with a focus on theoretical work. The details regarding specific programmes and modules will be communicated to you by the faculty.

Return to campuses

As soon as further measures regarding the lockdown are announced by the President and the Minister, the reintegration of students onto the campuses will be addressed. The extent of the measures remains unknown and it is envisaged that a phased approach will be adopted in this regard, meaning that most probably not all students will be allowed back at the same time. National guidelines regarding gatherings, social distancing, screening, etc may still have to be adhered to.

Contributions to various causes including the Solidarity Fund

There are many worthy initiatives that are aimed at assisting the government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and to assist communities to deal with the effects of the national lockdown. The university is deploying its intellectual capabilities and skills to support communities and people offering essential services. For example, our Faculty of Engineering is collaborating with other stakeholders to develop and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to health practitioners; and working towards repurposing some equipment for use as an emergency ventilator The Faculty is also collaborating with other stakeholders to manufacture ventilators that are crucial for health facilities in the treatment of people suffering from COVID-19.

I know that some members of the NWU community are continuously making financial and other contributions to various initiatives to assist households and communities. Let us continue making these contributions and where possible also contribute voluntarily to the various funds established to address the current problem. The university will soon embark on a campaign that seeks to support students with laptops/devices.

Naturally, the current situation has a significant impact on the academic programme. We are all confronted with many challenges and we have to devise means to deal with these. I request the patience, understanding, and cooperation of all students and staff to ensure that together we can work towards the successful completion of the academic year.

I want to assure you again that all possible measures will be put in place to minimise the possible adverse effects of students who might be left behind because of their real experience of the digital divide.
Let us work together to save this academic year and ensure that our collective expertise continues to make a meaningful contribution to our country.

Thank you

Prof Dan Kgwadi

Vice-chancellor and Principal

 

16 April 2020: Online teaching and learning: Message from the Vice-Chancellor.

16 April 2020

Dear Students

I have received a memorandum from concerned students about the exclusive nature of the online teaching and learning that is scheduled to start very soon. The impression has been created that management is ignorant and insensitive to the challenges posed by this emergency mode of delivery. This is untrue and unfortunate. The communication from our webpages stating that the online learning resumes today (16 April) have caused some confusion and it is regrettable. It is only the orientation for online learning that is planned to start this week as soon as the negotiations with telecommunication companies have been concluded.  From 17-21 April there is an opportunity for orientation for students and staff to familiarise themselves with the teaching-learning programme. Formal commencement is on 22 April.

While the insults from some of you on social media are totally unacceptable, the panic and anxiety caused through such impressions are understandable. To avoid any further contradictions regarding our response to the recovery plan due to the Corona-19 disaster, all communication will in future only be through the vice-chancellor’s office.  Such communication will address the interventions in place for students with different challenges, e.g. network connectivity, electronic devices, and data. The details regarding teaching-learning and assessments will be communicated at faculty level.

While our commitment to the successful completion of the academic year is based on social justice and the ethic of care, it is obvious and logical that no single solution will be applicable in all contexts.

You'll be kept up-to-date about the actual resumption of online learning in due course.

Thank you

Prof Dan Kgwadi 
Vice-chancellor and Principal

 

11 April 2020: Lockdown extension: Message from the Vice-Chancellor

11 April 2020

Dear NWU student

I trust you are well and continuing to keep safe. You are probably aware that the 21 days national lockdown has been extended until the end of April 2020 in order to continue with the implementation of measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. I cordially request you to support and comply with the government’s directives during the lockdown. I know that this is a difficult and frustrating time for you as you would want to continue with your studies and complete the academic year. We are all affected negatively by this global pandemic; thus we must do everything possible to save our precious lives. 

There has been an increased number of inquiries from students who want to return to their residences to collect their study materials. This is obviously a challenge due to the travel limitations and requirements for permits to do so. 
Following the extension of the lockdown, the university management will assess the implications thereof and advise you of the necessary interventions and way forward early next week.

Please let’s play our part and ensure a safe return whenever the lockdown is lifted. 

Regards 

Prof Dan Kgwadi 
Vice-Chancellor and Principal

 

6 April 2020: Beware of disinformation

6 April 2020

We trust that you are well and keeping safe. Please note that the University Management is working with all relevant stakeholders to put in place the necessary interventions and systems working towards the successful continuation of the 2020 academic year. We have noted some communiques that purport to be updating our stakeholders about the university’s position regarding the lockdown and the continuation of the academic year. Please ignore and desist from distributing any communication that is not published on the official platforms of the North-West University. 

All official statements/communiques of the university are published on the university’s official communication platforms such as eFundi, website and the various digital media accounts. Please follow us on the following platforms for regular updates:


Official website:

http://www.nwu.ac.za/coronavirus


Find us on Facebook:


Follow us on Twitter:

North-West University: @theNWU


eFundi:

http://efundi.nwu.ac.za/portal/


Enquiries:

nwu-covid19@nwu.ac.za

Issued by Corporate Relations and Marketing 


30 March 2020: Challenges facing students due to online-based learning

Starting the online programme

The start date for the commencement of the online programme is 15 April 2020 so that we are aligned to the potential re-opening of the schools. If the lockdown persists, and the relevant Ministers extend the recess again, such that learners, students and staff cannot return or commence with formal teaching and learning and in the online mode, we may have to delay this start. 

Access to online learning

A great deal of thinking about student backgrounds (remote areas included) has been undertaken by the leadership of faculties. A survey is being conducted among students where they were asked if they have access to electricity, devices and Wi-Fi. 

No assumptions were made that all students come from the same demographic backgrounds. Instead, the assumption is that students' needs will differ and access to the teaching-learning programme should, therefore, be supported as best as possible, keeping in mind that solutions are so dependent on services being or becoming available if the lockdown eases up, or if it is maintained.

Devices
Students were asked for information about what, if any, devices they possess. It may well be that those in need can be supplied with such (depending on courier and delivery services being available, funding becoming available).

Remote and rural areas without internet connection or electricity
Students were asked about this via the survey to determine the need for making available the teaching-learning programme in print mode (as for our distance education students). Again, there are potential constraints that apply; the availability of courier and postal services, and further announcements by the relevant Ministers (DBE/ DHET) on the recess period and the re-opening of institutions.

Scanners, printers and submission of assignments
We will be able to continue with online learning, provided students have devices and adequate data. The higher education sector is currently in negotiation for a 0 data cost for access to certain university webpages, such as eFundi. If we can secure this, our students will not need data as such, but only a device to access the relevant sites. For distance students, and in some cases for our contact students in remote areas and without access to devices/network coverage and electricity, it may be necessary to write assignments out. In these instances, postal services/ courier services will be an obvious solution.

Support for students concerning access to the online or distance mode 

  • Regarding distance mode, we already have thousands of students who study in programmes offered jointly at undergraduate level in both the contact and the distance mode (the BEd is the example that comes to mind). Thus the university already has that capacity, experience and expertise to support students.
  • Where the online mode is concerned, the majority of our modules (about 95%) already have an online Efundi presence. This is basic at present: it allows academics to upload resources and teaching guidelines. It allows for students to download these resources and also to upload their assignments when due. We are not anticipating developing high-end virtual learning as not all students will be able to access this consistently (differences in network coverage around SA and beyond, and affordability are some of the issues). The priority needs to be straightforward low-tech teaching and learning, accessibility and 0 data costs (hopefully) for students and staff.
  • Disadvantage/ advantage: Our university serves a wide variety of students, from disadvantaged and advantaged backgrounds, urban and rural, all genders, mature people and young people. Our commitment is to all, on the basis that those who need different types of support to access the programme are provided. Thus the survey (probably the first of a few of such surveys) helps us to plan for someone from Taung as they do for someone from Three Rivers, but the effectiveness of this planning depends on students communicating their needs on the one hand, and us being able to support these as well, on the other hand.

 

Classes commencing only on return to residences

The first problem with this is that we do not know when a return to campus will be allowed to happen, or indeed if it will be possible. In countries where infection rates continue to rise, the lockdown has been effective for 7 weeks. And further that even in conditions of lockdown, there needs to be made available the possibility of students keeping themselves occupied with formal work, and universities working together to rescue the academic year. The Minister has advised as such also. The risks of not doing this are multiple and unaffordable for institutions: students cannot afford a lost year; staff have to continue to work, services have to continue to be paid for, and people even in isolation need structure and routine that stimulate their development and growth. In light of that, and if we can do and afford it, it would, of course, be better to provide devices to students who need it, and better to continue teaching in the online mode or in the distance mode, than to lose the year.

Assignment due dates and examinations

The university has already communicated on revising of due dates for students and indeed for staff, arising from the extended recess period and the Corona crisis lockdown. We anticipate that instead of an exam, that open book online or open-book assignments/ projects will be set for students that will not require special venues. Obviously this is far from ideal, especially in those modules where lab-work, work-integrated learning, etc. apply. For those modules, the faculties are also considering different arrangements. Exams will inevitably have to shift and the loss of planned recess period in July and December is a real possibility. As yet though we plan from week to week because the virus changes from day to day and similarly its impact and reach. 

Living conditions not conducive to work and study

The crisis has intervened dramatically in domestic and working environments. The NWU has a lot of empathy for the crowded conditions many students face in their home environments. Our academics are also affected by this, whilst simultaneously developing a better on-line or paper-based distance offering for students. All these factors weigh heavily, but the fact is we are not living in a normal situation at any level.  We must all do our best to make possible the need for education provision, for our collective welfare as a country. 

Looking after your mental health during die COVID-19 time

We are very much aware that even if the university does everything within its power to service our students via the online mode or via the distance mode, which we may still find that a number of students could not keep up with or participate in all activities of the academic requirements of their programmes. In such cases, the faculties will offer "boot-camps/ crash-courses" once these students can return to our campuses in an effort for them to catch up and to support them to also complete the academic semester, and year, if needs be.
 

Prof Robert Balfour
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning

24 March 2020: NWU arrangements – nationwide lockdown

24 March 2020

Dear colleague

We find ourselves in an unprecedented and unimaginable situation. A situation in which the growing concern around the coronavirus outbreak can be felt by all of us. Please be assured that your concerns and anxieties about the pandemic, as well as your health and safety at work are our top priority.

The President's announcement of a nation-wide lockdown leaves us no option but to also put the university into lockdown at midnight on 26 March. During an urgent University Management Committee meeting this afternoon, 24 March, the implications of this announcement were carefully considered. Our concern is to ensure that within the constraints caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures to contain it, we are able to complete the academic year successfully.

We have already closed many of our residences and the few students (mainly international students) who are unable to return home, will be accommodated in designated residences on our campuses.

Many of our staff are already working from home, and we encourage employees to use this time productively and continue their work from home while complying with the applicable directives of the nation-wide lockdown.

Leave and working from home

During the lockdown period, staff will not be required to apply for any leave. It is therefore not necessary to complete the work from home documents. For the removal of any computer equipment (to allow you to work from home), the Authorisation for use of assets off-campus form must be completed and handed in.

In order to support and enable staff to work from home, managers will engage with staff in their portfolios to determine their needs and to ensure that everyone has the necessary tools to work from home.

In the case of IT, Protection Services and other services where some work can only be performed on site, permission will be granted for staff to work on campus as and when necessary under strict protocols. Universities South Africa (USAf) is facilitating a method to provide staff working in essential services with the necessary documents authorising them travel and access to campus.

Access to campuses

Strict access control will be enforced during the lockdown period. Only the following gates will remain open:

  • Mahikeng Campus: Main gate
  • Potchefstroom Campus: Main gate, Esselen Street entrance, West Campus entrance and entrance to Faculty of Engineering
  • Vanderbijlpark Campus: Main gate
Online learning

During the lockdown the NWU will continue to prepare to offer its academic programme via online mode of delivery. The situation will constantly be monitored and the university community will be advised in the event of any changes. Even though we are not venturing into new territory, delivering our teaching and learning programmes online will surely bring about more challenges and will undoubtedly put staff and students under pressure. We need to work as a team and proactively share identified challenges to ensure successful delivery of our programmes.

We urge you to adhere to the President's announcement to protect yourselves and to assist in curbing the spread of Covid-19. While this measure will have a considerable impact on people's livelihoods and on our economy, the human cost of not adhering to this action would be much greater.

The NWU Response Team will continue to monitor the situation and will constantly update you on any possible changes.

It is critical that we use the formal communication channels created by the university to verify information and not spread rumours or unconfirmed information.

Please also make use of the email address created for all Covid-19 enquiries: nwu-covid19@nwu.ac.za.

All the latest information is also constantly made available on this page.

Thank you for the hard work done during this period – with your sustained support we would be able to continue to take the NWU forward.

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Kind regards

 

Prof Dan Kgwadi
NWU Vice-chancellor and Principal


23 March 2020: Frequently asked questions by students

20 March 2020: NWU: Managing the spread of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

20 March 2020

Since the President’s declaration of a national disaster on Sunday, 15 March, the number of infections has increased drastically and some of these are local infections. It is crucial that all stakeholders must put in place the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The University Management Committee convened an urgent meeting on Friday, 20 March 2020, to review and consider its response to the developing COVID-19 pandemic and made decisions in relation to students and staff. 

 

Residences

  • In the interest of the health and safety of staff, students and other stakeholders of the NWU, the decision has been taken to close the residences on all campuses with effect from 20 March 2020 until further notice.
  • Students will have until 24 March 2020 to vacate the residences.
  • Students who are unable to leave the residences because they have a documented reason to remain, would be permitted subsequent to an approval process as administrated by residence officers and house parents.
  • International students who are unable to return to their countries due to the closure of borders may apply for permission to remain through the Global Engagement office (International office).
  • COVID-19 Special Residence Application form and guidelines

 

Facilities

In order to promote the health and safety of students and staff within the NWU’s public facilities:

  • Most of the facilities on campuses will be closed until further notice. In particular, the IT laboratories, the libraries, and 24 hour facilities.
  • For the few students who may remain on campus, essential emergency services will be available. The counselling service of Thuso (counselling departments) will be available telephonically or by email to assist students during the period of the recess.

 

Teaching-Learning and Research for all students

  • All students are on extended recess until 14 April 2020. The university plans to continue with online learning from 15 April.
  • Students will continue with the online learning until contact classes resume.
  • Postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows who have ongoing laboratory experiments that cannot be discontinued may apply for permission to remain in residence and/or on campus with a motivation from the supervisor/promoter to be submitted to the Executive Dean or Deputy Dean: Research.
  • Arrangements regarding teaching-learning and research will be communicated online as and when plans are approved.
  • The DVC: Teaching-Learning and Executive Deans are developing the capacity for online programme delivery.

 

NSFAS Allowances

The full payment of the April NSFAS allowance will be brought forward to be paid out electronically as soon as possible.

 

Graduations

  • In the distance learning environment, the scheduled handover ceremonies will be postponed until further notice. However, the certificates will be couriered soon to all qualifying diplomates and graduands.
  • Graduands due to graduate during April/May will have their degrees conferred in absentia and will receive their degrees by courier subject to the university’s financial rules.
  • Candidates due to be awarded diplomas during April/May will have their diplomas awarded in absentia and will receive their certificates by courier subject to the university’s financial rules.


During this difficult period, staff and students are requested to practice the necessary social distancing and hygiene protocol to reduce the risk of infection, wherever they find themselves.


19 March 2020: NWU recess from 17 March to 14 April 2020

After the President declared a state of disaster on Sunday 15 March 2020, the NWU took a decision to bring the recess forward to start on 17 March 2020. We expected to continue with delivering our academic programmes on 30 March 2020 in the online mode.
Subsequently, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology directed that the recess for universities and other tertiary institutions would commence on 18 March 2020 until 14 April 2020. 
From 15 April onwards, the NWU intends to offer its academic programme via online learning. The situation will constantly be monitored and the university community will be advised in the event of any changes.

University Management

17 March 2020: Urgent arrangements (staff and students): Covid-19

Following the declaration of a national disaster relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and the statement by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, the North-West University management met to review the plans and processes that have been put in place to address the risks posed by the pandemic to both internal and external stakeholders, as well as to implement the necessary measures that ensures the continuation of university’s essential academic functions. The following measures were approved;

  • The recess will be from 17 to 29 March 2020.
  • All graduation ceremonies have been postponed until further notice.
  • Teaching-learning will be conducted through an online mode via eFundi from 30 March until 30 April 2020. Work-Integrated Learning, Work-Place Learning, and practicals will be rescheduled for later in the semester/year.
  • Professional bodies will be engaged regarding assessments for work-integrated learning and work-place learning.
  • Students who elect to leave the NWU during the recess may continue their studies through the online mode after the recess.
  • Students who are unable to leave the residences will be accommodated in designated residences and must observe social distancing and hygiene practices as advised.
  • Postgraduate students who need to engage in practical or laboratory-based work will be granted access to facilities through the directors or deans. This will be applicable to groups of 15 students or less.
  • Facilities such as libraries and other services deemed critical will continue to be available.
  • The situation will be constantly monitored up to 30 April and the university community advised accordingly.


Students are encouraged to contact their faculties for more information regarding the academic programme and activities.

The University Management also approved directives in regard to formal and informal sports events, gatherings and meetings, official and private travel by staff and students and receiving international visitors. Please read the directives here below.

Kind regards

University Management Committee

 

NWU response team

The NWU response team has your best interest at heart. This team was established on 2 March and consists of all the relevant role players. The purpose of this team is to:

  • Promote the health and safety of staff, students and other stakeholders; 
  • Identify critical business processes that might be impacted and possibly disrupted; 
  • Recognise, manage and minimise threats related to the virus; 
  • Ensure that emergency services respond promptly to events related to the virus; 
  • Ensure the NWU is able to continue with essential functions during periods of disruption due to the virus; 
  • To restore normality to NWU business processes through business recovery and communication plans.

Contact us via nwu-covid19@nwu.ac.za