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Resilience and Innovation in the time of Covid-19

The past weeks have been an incredible test on our resilience as well as our ability to innovate, not only as a tertiary institution but as individuals too.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it a plethora of complexities that affect South Africa in an exceptionally unique way. Amongst these complexities is the impact on our education sector, ranging from early childhood education through to tertiary education. 

As a leading university on the African continent, Wits has actioned a number of contingency measures and staff, students and alumni are playing their part in using their skills and resources to fight the pandemic and its resultant affects. 

Digital Platform Enablement

As of 20 April, Wits University switched on an emergency online teaching platform for lecturers and students in order to continue with the academic year. Alongside this, each faculty ran an online orientation for its students to ensure usability of the platform.

A total of 5 000 laptops were delivered to economically needy students to ensure inclusion in the emergency online teaching contingency plan. Wits negotiated with mobile network providers to provide all Wits students in South Africa with 30 GB of data for one month.

Big Data Innovation

The University received a grant award from the IEEE (the world’s largest technical professional organisation dedicated to advancing technology). “The chief goal of the project supported by the IEEE grant award is to control the number of people infected, hospitalisations, ICU admissions and mortality in South Africa and other countries. These outcomes will be predicted as a function of non-pharmaceutical interventions in the post-lockdown period to allow for the economy to reactivate.” The Covid-19 South Africa dashboard and the associated work performed has been driven by an interdisciplinary team from Wits University and iThemba LABS of the NRF in collaboration with the data analytics team of DataConvergence. Further collaborative efforts have been established with Botswana, Nigeria, Eswatini, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Morocco and Senegal.

Academic Contributions

There has been a massive academic contribution from across the University on Covid-19, with specific contributions relating to epidemiology and infectious diseases, treatment, vaccines and hospital care, public health, migration and mobility, policy and governance, as well as engineering and big data innovation. Our academic teams have collaborated and consulted to multiple government and ministerial committees and sub-committees, the NRF,CSIR and the NICD.

Positive Impact Imperatives

The University staff, students and alumni have heeded the call for positive impact imperatives and collaborated with numerous entities in pursuit of a contribution towards society. Some of these include:

  • Collaborative efforts between the Wits Senior Executive Team, the Wits Convocation Executive and Gift of the Givers, to establish a drive-through Covid-19 testing site on Wits Campus.
  • Teams at Wits from the Digital Incubator at the Tshimologong Precinct, the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Aeronautical Engineering (MIA) along with the Transnet Centre of Systems Engineering (TCSE) and the Transnet Matlafatšo Centre (TMC) heeded the call and used their engineering prowess to assist with a solution for PPE equipment . The team raised funding and designed, printed and distributed PPE face-shield masks to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital as well as to Helen Joseph and Chris Hani Baragwanath hospitals, which are also Wits teaching hospitals. Over R100 000 has been raised for this initiative. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation towards this cause or other initiatives at Wits University against COVID-19, please follow https://wits.devman.co.za/devman/covid-19/giving/

The University has made us proud of the role they have played, thus far, and we should continue to pay close attention to the developments that will come.

A proud #Witsie4Life,

Stacey-Lee Bolon

President of the Wits Convocation

 

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