University of Cape Town (UCT) chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe has donated R5-million, on behalf of the Motsepe Foundation, to assist university students and staff with a multifaceted Covid-19 crisis management plan.
To combat the virus, UCT ended the first term early on March 16, with five members of the university subsequently testing positive for Covid-19. All are in self-isolation under the supervision of the Department of Health.
Following the President’s announcement of the national disaster and the ensuing countrywide lockdown from March 27 to April 16, thousands of UCT students have vacated their residences, thereby necessitating extra measures to ensure they reach their homes safely.
These measures included hiring buses to transport students to central metropolitans in the various provinces, paying National Student Financial Aid Scheme allowances early and providing laptops to identified undergraduate students.
Moloi-Motsepe says she approached the foundation after hearing that students would be asked to leave campus because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Due to the unexpected nature of the pandemic, staff and students were in a precarious position. Understanding that many of our students come from very impoverished backgrounds, making the arrangements for everyone to leave campus was a difficult and stressful period.”
She adds that she watched, “with sadness”, a student from a rural community interviewed on television mention that she relied on computers at the university library to do her work as she does not have a laptop. “Now that the university was closed, she was expected to do her work online, which was just not possible.”
The lockdown has also required changes to planning for teaching and learning at UCT.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng says the donation forms crucial support when UCT’s resources are being stretched in “unimaginable ways”, adding that “UCT has weathered many storms in recent years but little could have prepared us for Covid-19”.
However, she notes that UCT’s leadership team is putting measures in place to continue its core business of teaching, learning and research. “For this we need additional resources to assist our students wherever possible.”
Moloi-Motsepe points out that the intention behind the donation is to “evoke collective action in our efforts to overcome this crisis”, adding that the sustainability of South Africa’s systems and strategies are being tested.
“We must find ways to work together, pooling our resources, knowledge and capabilities to create an effective path forward.”
Further, UCT’s alumni have also rallied to help, with donations from many alumni abroad.
After a call to alumni on March 19, the Development and Alumni Department has received donations totalling R335 453, from 92 UCT alumni.
The alumni donations include a R100 000 donation from a Canadian alumnus, who is a member of the Daniel Samuel Maseko Memorial Scholarship.
These funds are to be distributed among 24 students from the Southern African Development Community countries of Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe who were most in need of financial assistance to get back home.