MARKO SVICEVIC UP’s Department of Facilities Management, in collaboration with UP’s Department of Residence Affairs and Accommoda...Read more
Since UP’s official shutdown on 26 September, the university has said that it is “implementing arrangements alternative to on-campus lectures”. This has changed the working academic environment since 11 October, UP announced that “all lecture and study material will be made available by the faculties either online or by other means.” Students have raised their concerns about a lack of access to computers and internet. However, on 19 October, UP announced that it had “liais[ed] with several service providers to provide students with the option of accessing the university website and ClickUP free of charge.” These service providers are Tshwane Free Wi-Fi, AlwaysOn, and Telkom. The university has said that more services will be added as they become available. These network zones are only free in accessing the university website and ClickUP, therefore, students will not have access to other websites including social media.
UP associate professor in the Department of Sociology, Prof. Christi van der Westhuizen has recently made several appearances in the media. These include her participation in a discussion on the limits on freedom of speech (broadcasted in Afrikaans) on September 15 on radio RSG, her participation in a Women’s Day roundtable discussion on the different forms of feminism and their relevance within society on radio 702, and she most recently contributed to the BBC documentary “Our World: Afrikaners on the Edge” discussing the status of Afrikaans at universities and the Afrikaner identity.
In her participation on “Praat Saam” in the discussion on the limits of freedom of speech, Prof. van der Westhuizen was joined by Jacob van Garderen from Lawyers for Human Rights. The discussion was centred on differentiating between freedom of speech and hate speech, following the recent event of South Africa’s denial of publicly homophobic American pastor Steven Anderson.
On 13 October, a complaint was lodged with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) detailing several issues surrounding racism and inequality at UP. The complaint was lodged against UP, as well as “certain actions” of civil rights organisation group Afriforum, by Quraysha Ismail Sooliman, a PhD candidate at UP’s Faculty of Law. SAHRC’s spokesperson Gail Smith confirmed that it had received a complaint against UP, although no further details had been given. “The matter is at the assessment stage and we are unable to comment further at this time,” added Smith.
In light of the recent disruptions to UP’s academic program, UP implemented a new manner of continuing the academic year.
Lecturers at UP make use of ClickUP to make all study material available online to students. Students use ClickUP to gain access to their work and to submit assignments, tests and other projects. Most contact lectures have been exempted, except in certain instances where contact between lecturers and students is necessary. Semester tests have been replaced with online tests and assignments. A few lecturers even live-stream their lectures to students on various streaming websites. UP’s commitment to continuing the academic year online has been met with mixed reactions.
Megan Smit, a first-year biological sciences student, says she feels positive about the changes that took place. However, she said there are challenges. “It takes a lot of self-discipline to sit in front of a computer and to self-study. It gets difficult when you struggle with the work and you can’t raise your hand [at the lecturer] to ask for help.” Smit added that she thinks online studies can be effective in the future.
Since the announcement that UP’s academic year will continue online, students have raised concerns about limited or no access to the internet. UP management have since made arrangements for access to ClickUP and the UP website.
UP announced that students will now be able to access the university’s website and ClickUP, free of charge and for an unlimited amount of time. In the statement UP said, “Those who need to make use of this service can collect a Sim card from the booth at the Lunnon Gate of the Hatfield campus, between 09:00 and 15:00 from Wednesday, 19 October. Students will need to bring with them their student cards and ID books. Students who have been allowed onto the Hatfield campus may collect the Sim card from Room 3-78 in the Technical Services Building.”