Update following South Africa's move to Covid-19 Alert Level 4

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As announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night, South Africa is currently at adjusted alert Level 4 of the national regulations in relation to the pandemic. The situation in Gauteng is very concerning and we are keeping a close eye on the Covid-19 figures of our province. Fortunately, the 2021 academic year has already been adapted to meet the challenges posed by Covid-19 head-on, but a few more adjustments are necessary to bring us in compliance with the adjusted Level 4 regulations as published by the Department of Cooperative Governance on 27 June 2021. We are also expecting additional measures to be announced by Minister Blade Nzimande later this week. 
 
Students 
 
We already have multimodal teaching in place, using online methodologies. Contact teaching for students doing laboratory work or practical classes will be suspended from 30 June 2021.
 
Our residences remain open, although congregate settings do pose additional risk. It is absolutely essential that students follow all Covid-19 protocols to protect themselves and others from a looming third wave. This includes the mandatory wearing of masks in public spaces – including residence public spaces – regular sanitising and maintaining the prescribed social distance. We already have mechanisms in place for additional cleaning in residences and our Properties and Services Department is providing sanitisers as usual. 
 
Staff
 
Only essential services staff should come to work – this include security and maintenance staff as well as residence management staff. With the exception of essential services staff, the University is supporting staff to work from home whilst we are at Level 4. Standard operating procedures for work arrangements under Covid-19 are under consideration. Once approved, it will be shared with the University community. 
 
Gatherings 
 
Gatherings are prohibited with immediate effect.
 
Mental Health Support 
 
This is a time to look after your mental health and seek help immediately if you experience difficulties.  For mental health support, students should follow the Student Counselling Unit’s Facebook page (Student Counselling Unit – Fort Hare University). It is managed by a psychologist on a daily basis. The platform allows for psychologists to participate in live chats and offer one-on-one assistance via private online sessions. In addition to Facebook, the Unit offers virrtual (zoom or Microsoft Teams) as well as telephonic counselling for students who do not have access to the internet. 
 
Students may contact the Student Counselling Unit via email (TMsengana@ufh.ac.za) or telephone (East London – 043 704 7017; Alice – 040 602 2681) to make an appointment. Students will be called back for their appointments so that they do not need to use their own airtime for the sessions. 
 
Those in need of mental health assistance for stress, anxiety, and depression may also seek help through the HIGHER HEALTH 24-hour toll-free crisis line which is available in all 11 official languages as detailed below: 
• Toll-free call 0800 36 36 36 
• SMS 43-33-6 
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group too has a toll-free number: • 0800 121314 
 
These services are free for students. Staff can access staff support services through our Wellness Unit in Human Resources. Please contact Ms Mandisa Tyanti (mtyanti@ufh.ac.za). 
 
Additionally, staff and their families may contact ICAS toll-free at 0800 222 581 for urgent support. The service is confidential and staff may make use of this service anonymously. Staff can also contact ICAS by dialling *134*905# to access their clinical services. ICAS will call back within two to three days for a session. Please use the company code FOR001 for the University of Fort Hare. 
 
Conclusion 
 
This is a time to stay safe and take all the necessary precautions. Please remember to always follow all Covid-19 protocols, including regularly washing or sanitising your hands, always wearing a face mask in public spaces and keeping the requisite social distance in order to protect yourself and those around you. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Professor Sakhela Buhlungu 
Vice-Chancellor and Principal