According to the announcement made by the University of Free State council on Friday, 27 November, Covid-19 vaccination is a requirement at the institution.
Rector and vice-chancellor Prof Francis Petersen said although the university does not compel people to vaccinate, it has the right to require vaccination if anyone wants to access its premises. The policy will be implemented from February 2022.
Petersen clarified that the university does not impose vaccine on anyone, but the establishment exercises its right to demand vaccination if you want to access its premises in order to protect the staff and students.
The UFS is a residential university that requires face-to-face engagement by both staff and students, and operational requirements entail that our staff, ad hoc contract workers, and students are regularly exposed to large groups on the three campuses.
Petersen said since March 2020, the institution has followed a predominantly online emergency remote learning-and-teaching program with a minimalistic approach to the return of staff and students to campus.
Where possible, staff members have been working from home, except essential service employees and academic staff required to support students studying on campus.
He said the possibility of continuous remote working and study conditions is not in line with the culture and policy of the UFS.
Though a mixed learning approach is supported, online learning alone will be damaging to the value of the university’s graduates and the knowledge that the institution should provide to its students as a residential university.
The UFS vice-chancellor said the institution is concerned about the number of staff, students, and ad hoc contract workers who have tested positive for Covid-19 since the commencement of the national lockdown.
The pandemic has resulted in a number of people being placed in quarantine, testing positive or being incapacitated due to Covid-19 complications and deaths.
He said vaccinated people will be required to upload their vaccination certificates on an electronic platform to obtain access to campus. Only vaccinated students will be allowed to access on-campus accommodation.
Students who are not vaccinated by 14 February 2022 will not be prevented from registering for the academic year but can only access the campus if vaccinated or granted an exemption.
Petersen emphasized that the development of the policy was discussed widely with appropriate internal stakeholders, among others, the university’s senate, backing it with a convincing 84%.
The university also observed due process by referring the intended policy to all its governing structures for discussion, said Petersen.
He said the institution has conducted a thorough risk assessment of the implementation of the policy, and a contingency plan is in place that will be implemented in the absence of full implementation of the policy.
The university said that they will work with government to accelerate the number of vaccinations.