Prof Petersen says the continuation of the 2020 academic programme remains a critical factor for the UFS. Picture: Supplied
Prof Petersen says the continuation of the 2020 academic programme remains a critical factor for the UFS. Picture: Supplied

UFS launches #WellnessWarriors to help students combat Covid-19 anxiety

By IOL Supplied Time of article published Apr 21, 2020

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A collaborative effort between the Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of the Free State (UFS) and the Data Science for Social Impact research group at the University of Pretoria led to the development of a framework to share Covid-19 data with the public in the form of a data repository and a dashboard.

According to Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, the university recognises its role and responsibility as an institution of higher learning in the production of global knowledge and it is for this reason that many of its academics and clinical staff are currently working in various disciplines to assist the provincial and national governments in overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Prof Petersen says he is proud of the university’s contribution or involvement in relation to Covid-19. One of these is a project led by FARMOVS, a UFS wholly-owned clinical trial company, whereby clinicians from the Department of Internal Medicine, the Department of Critical Care, and the Division of Virology will participate in the Public Health Emergency Solidarity Trial initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Negotiations are also underway between the UFS and the Department of Health in the Free State for FARMOVS to offer support with the continuation of healthcare to non-Covid-19 patients in an attempt to free up space at the Universitas Hospital for isolation of Covid-19 patients.

Prof Petersen says the continuation of the 2020 academic programme remains a critical factor for the UFS. “We are looking at the development of low-tech approaches to learning and teaching that are sensitive to the challenges of connectivity, bandwidth, and the type of devices that our students have, realising the deep socio-economic inequalities and digital divide in our society.” 

“The university has put the Keep Calm, #UFSLearnOn campaign for students and the Keep Calm, #UFSTeachOn campaign for staff in place to provide the best possible support for academic staff and students by adapting existing support and practices that are best suited to the university’s new low-tech environment to help move learning and teaching online from 20 April 2020. This was widely communicated to all students,” he says. 

The #WellnessWarriors campaign aimed at encouraging health and wellbeing among students and supporting them with matters such as managing stress, feeling overwhelmed, mental health, procrastination, time management, and mindfulness has also been launched.

Prof Petersen is chairing a Special Executive Group (SEG), which was established to assess the overall impact of Covid-19 on the university. The SEG acts as the Covid-19 nerve centre and includes, among others, expertise in scenario planning, decision-making, project management, communication and institutional culture.

Seven task teams were established to focus on various aspects of the university’s operations such as teaching and learning, staff matters, operations, community engagement, student re-integration and financial and legal matters. Reporting to the SEG, the ultimate aim of the task teams is to forecast and plan the impact of the pandemic on the UFS and the continuation of the academic programme in 2020. 

One of the Task Teams, the UFS Coronavirus (Covid-19/Sars-Cov-2) Task Team assists and advises the executive management, using epidemiological knowledge in order to monitor the situation very closely and to share critical and verified information (especially against the background of fake news) as it becomes available.

Issued by the University of the Free State 

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