The Continuities of the New Normal

The month of January has come and gone. The difference between January and the preceding months, is time. The events of last month in the context of COVID-19 continued to be devastating and deadly.

At the end of December, we sadly lost a student at Mandela University due to COVID related illnesses. May his soul rest in peace.

Whilst the situation has slightly improved as we begin the month of February, we should stay focused and avoid dropping our guard. We thus reiterate the message that was stated in the last blog titled: Be agents of your lives - COVID - 19 is alive (Vol 2. No 9). As students continue to journey back to residences in Port Elizabeth and George, I wish to remind them that the pandemic is indeed alive and well and its consequences have led to the demise of more than 44 000 people in our country.   

There have been a few developments compared to the last wave, such as the introduction of the vaccine. We will participate in the vaccination process in accordance with the three phases of the roll-out as announced by our Government. Specific updates will be released by the University once the planning processes underway are concluded. Whilst awaiting the vaccination process to commence, we have a collective responsibility to adhere to the health protocols and other measures put in place by Mandela University to contain the spread of the pandemic. Wear a Mask, sanitise and exercise physical distancing. These remain non-negotiables.

Living with Uncertainty

The year 2020 was arguably the most tumultuous year in human existence. It has stretched the endurance of many, to levels that have never been fathomed by the mind. The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has redesigned the way that we go about our lives and we will continue to bear the brunt of its consequences for many years to come.

The hands of time may have turned to 2021, but many of the challenges that we had to confront in 2020 are still very much present and that means we must still be proactive in how we wage the war against the virus that has been responsible for so much anguish. Not only in the human psyche but also the socio-economic conditions it has caused, thus leaving many below the breadline. The apartheid spatial planning that we continue to be subjected to, meant that our universities had to hatch different plans that are tailor-made for our students who come from different spheres. The massive rollout of gadgets and data, as much as they were prerequisites for the continuation of the academic year in these unchartered waters, without the values that are cherished by our University, such as Ubuntu, they were not going to be adequate. The academic project demands much more than broadband, it requires camaraderie and partnerships, inspired and nurtured by a humanizing pedagogy.

As we welcome back more of our students to our University and re-integrate them in the residences, our twin objectives of #Save Lives and #Save TheAcademicYear are sacrosanct and non-negotiable.

As we witnessed during the most difficult parts of 2020, we can only triumph and gain ground through a shared purpose and joint action from our University community.

The responsibility of containing the virus is an act that falls on all our shoulders collectively.

As it was during the first wave of the virus, heightened public education is fundamental in assisting us to achieve our twin objectives.

During these times of crisis, as a university that prides itself as one of the most advanced scientific institutions on the African continent, we encourage our students and academics to cultivate groundbreaking research around the virus as has been the case with mental health, substance abuse, HIV/Aids as informed by our integrated health system. The establishment of the country’s 10th Medical School at our institution will not only advance research but will put us in pole position to respond directly to the health challenges that have been amplified by the novel coronavirus in our province.

Transitioning to our shared destiny will be no easy crusade, but a united people has never been defeated by adversity.

I know it is tempting to be nostalgic and wish for a pre-COVID world.  That world has gone. The task before us as a space for the generation of knowledge and flourishing of contending ideas is to search for a post-COVID world order that is just and a home for the whole of humankind. This task begins with all of us modelling behaviours and living values that epitomise our value system. We have no choice! Enacting and living our values will sprout a Mandela way. Perforce, there is no better time to exude this resultant value system and culture – as the contemporary period continues to test our resolve and commitment to our ethos and aspirational ends.

Luthando Jack
Dean of Students

Posted on 04 February 2021 11:01:31

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This platform serves as a reflective, discursive and connecting space between myself and the entire student community of our beloved university. Through this platform, we converse with our students and broader stakeholders on all matters of student life, wellbeing and development at Mandela University.

Luthando Jack, Dean of Students