File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency(ANA)
File Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/ African News Agency(ANA)

Universities cancel graduation ceremonies in response to Covid-19 pandemic

By Samkeko Mtshali And Botho Molosankwe Time of article published Mar 16, 2020

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Johannesburg - The Academic and Professional Staff Association (APSA) has called on the South African government to shut down institutions of higher learning and all congested working environments as the number of people infected with Covid-19 increases.  

In a statement the union’s General Secretary Tumi “BB” Senokoane said that the entire populace of South Africa was currently at the mercy of the political leadership of the country amidst the widespread COVID-19 outbreak. 

“As a union whose majority of members are in the Higher Education Sector we therefore call on the government to close universities and colleges from the 18th of March until there is a comprehensive understanding of how widespread the Coronavirus outbreak is in the country. This call is inclusive of cancellations or suspensions of graduations,” Senokoane said. 

He said that the Coronavirus represented an imminent threat to the academic and employment community which exists or works in groups and called for measures to be taken to protect workers and ensure the minimisation of the spread of the virus in the day to day function of these organisations. 

Universities seem to have heeded the calling and these are some of the measures they have put in place:

University of Johannesburg

All contact classes, tests and practicals have been suspended from March 16 until further notice and teaching and learning will continue via online and other means.

All autumn graduation ceremonies have been suspended and students will be issued with digital certificates.

Students will have an opportunity later in the year to experience a graduation at the university with their families.

Staff will continue to report for duty to ensure that operations within their domains continue. However, in accordance with UJ’s business continuity plan and to minimise exposure, the university will consider the option of staff working

remotely, in consultation with line managers.

Postdoctoral research fellows international students will have a choice to remain in their residence for the upcoming autumn recess.

Libraries and laboratories will remain open.

Mangosuthu University of Technology

Contact teaching has been suspended and learning will happen online.

Access to the library is limited.

Gatherings of more than 100 people will be not allowed.

The graduation ceremony has been postponed until further notice.

University of Free State

Classes have been suspended from March 17 and will resume on April 14.

Information on the May/June 2020 examinations will be communicated as soon as possible. 

Graduation ceremonies and related prize-giving ceremonies scheduled to take place on the Bloemfontein Campus from 20 to 24 April and on the Qwaqwa Campus from 8 to 9 May as well as the graduation ceremony from 10 to 12 June have been postponed until further notice. 

Open Days scheduled to take place on the Qwaqwa Campus on 18 April 18 and on the Bloemfontein Campus on May 9 have cancelled.  

All official events (i.e. conferences, seminars, colloquia, etc.) scheduled to take place on the UFS campuses have been cancelled with immediate effect. 

All official sporting events have been cancelled until further notice. KovsieFit will also be closed as from March 17 until further notice. 

Students in residences must vacate their respective residences by March 20 as all residences on the campuses will be closed until April 13.

International students should contact the Office for International Affairs for arrangements. 

To limit the risk of spreading COVID-19, staff and students who contract the virus due to private travel will not be allowed to return to work, class, or a residence until they are medically fit to do so; they will also be required to submit a medical certificate. 

UFS staff are expected to continue reporting for duty to ensure that operations and essential services continue. 

Staff are requested to maintain social distance and to meet, if possible, only when essential. 

Alternative meeting methods such as MS teams, Skype for Business, and email should be considered. 

Wits University

The mid-term break will be brought forward and the University will be in recess from Tuesday March 17.

Wits will reopen on March 30 as per the almanac, but the date and the form of the academic programme may change, depending on national and global developments around the containment of the health pandemic. 

Students will have to vacate their residences within the next 72 hours. 


The University will continue to operate on essential and skeleton staff during this period.

Academic staff may work from home but are allowed to come onto the Wits campuses as appropriate or if required, to ensure the long-term continuity of the academic programme.

Non-essential professional and administrative staff may remain at home unless they are required to report for duty.

All graduation ceremonies will be postponed until further notice and more information will be sent to graduands in due course.


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