We are in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak which has been labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Coronavirus causes respiratory illness in people. It was first identified in Wuhan, China and it has since spread quite rapidly to most parts of the world. The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic spread to South Africa, with the first confirmed case announced on the 5th of March 2020 by Minister of Health Dr Zwelini Mkhize. On the 15th of March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster, and announced measures like immediate travel restrictions and the closure of schools and universities from the 18th March 2020. On the 23rd of March 2020, President Ramaphosa issued a national lockdown which began on the 26th of March 2020,and, later extended to 30th April 2020.
The DUT Communications team’s, Waheeda Peters spoke to some DUT staff and students about the COVID-19 pandemic, its effects, particularly during the current lockdown period which serves as a remedial effort to fight the spread, and which has affected lives of all South Africans and the entire world in both positive and negative ways.
Sharing his view is Mzwandile Khumalo- Coordinator: Student Development Programmes (FYSE and REP), Student Academic Development Unit, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)
“When the lockdown was first announced, one had to make a critical decision of either being with family, whom I hardly ever spend time with or remain in Durban to first use the amount of time to catch up with my studies, rethink and implement new systems and processes and prepare for the post-pandemic activities.
As the coordinator for FYSE and REP programmes, my first worry was the academic anxiety and stress, particularly for first year students as they were still transitioning and adapting to the new environment. I have since been communicating and using social media (WhatsApp) to start and facilitate meaningful conversations, in trying to ensure extended academic contact and perhaps holistically developing students through the graduate attributes. The lockdown has made me rethink work and using what is readily available to keep students engaged. The student academic development unit at CELT has really been instrumental in this regard. What I am learning and hoping during and post this pandemic is the apparent need to rethink what we may have considered as normal and really challenge ourselves in thinking futuristic, life may not return to what we had considered as normal, ours is to reshape and make it work for us all.”
Prashna Hansjee: ICON Administrator
“The lockdown has proven difficult to obtain and process the various documents required for Postgraduate students, amongst other issues. This has added to the perilous times that the students currently face. The COVID-19 national lockdown has impacted us all greatly. We will hopefully be able to recover from this shortly, and curb the backlog once the lockdown has been lifted.”
Nobahle Mkhwanazi: Masters Student (Faculty of Accounting and Informatics)
“The lockdown has affected me academically. I was about to present my research proposal to the FRC and it was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, and since I had to go back home. I cannot communicate with my supervisor on how to continue with my research due to network issues at home. I am optimistic this difficult time shall pass and the first thing I want to do when lockdown ends is to ask for the earliest date to present my proposal to the FRC.”
Fiona Pillay: Specialist Graphic Designer
“I have much praise for President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet. Imagine what the infection rate and death toll would have been if we did not go into lockdown when we did? I’m thankful for the daily updates from the Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, it makes the pandemic personal and brings the statistics closer to home. Personally, I was social distancing since it was suggested as my immune system is not the strongest and I’m a chronic asthmatic. It has been my faith that has helped me through this very trying time with the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected the whole planet.
It’s amazing to see South Africa as one of the leading countries flattening the curve. The camaraderie that I see is amazing! It’s what makes us South African. People and organisations reaching out to each other, the President and Ministers taking a pay cut, people pitching in to help small businesses and entrepreneurs, even people sharing recipes on social media makes this experience so unique and uplifting during this historic time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Sneliswe Hlongwane: Marketing and Communication Officer at the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship
“It has changed the way I think, and also taught me a lesson to appreciate life and the importance of hygiene. Personally, I have been blessed, I get to reconnect with my parents and my sister. We have not had this much time together in a while. I am able to work from home, and it has given me more time to read more books and study accessible online courses. I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I’m glad to be alive and my whole family is healthy, and if that means staying in the house for four weeks or however long, then my health and family is worth it. Professionally, this has not been easy as I am used to face to face consultations and trainings with our students, but I had to change how I normally run our recruitment strategy and trainings for our student businesses. I am now currently using online platforms to communicate with students, for example, Whatsapp Groups, Facebook and Zoom for webinars to share available information.”