‘The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) vice-chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng lamented the destruction caused by the apocalyptic wildfire that has been raging in Cape Town over the last few days. The blaze hit the campus on Sunday, 18 April and led to students evacuating their residences and the loss of the Jagger Library Reading Room, which housed invaluable special collections.

“We all share a deep sense of grief for what we have lost. We join our colleagues at UCT Libraries, and academics around the world, in lamenting the destruction of the Jagger Library Reading Room and the priceless collections that were stored in the archives,” said the vice-chancellor.

Despite the widespread destruction, Phakeng’s message on Monday was an optimistic one.

UCT WILL REBUILD AND CREATE ‘NEW TREASURES’

Phakeng said the university will rebuild the facilities ravaged by the fire and while it will be impossible to replace the “the treasures of scholarship” that were lost, UCT can create “new treasures” through their own scholarship.

She added that the rebuilding process extended beyond just the infrastructure and the works lost, as it applies to the UCT community as a whole.

“In the same way, each of us can rebuild our own sense of purpose out of this tragedy. To do so, we need to help each other. This is a team effort, and I convey my sincere gratitude for the commitment and help that you are all giving in the interest of UCT,” said Phakeng.

DISRUPTED UCT ACADEMIC PROGRAMME TO RESUME ON FRIDAY, 26 APRIL

Following the evacuation of the UCT campus on Sunday, the academic programme was suspended until Friday, 26 April. The damage across the university is currently being assessed and residences and academic buildings need to be cleaned before learning restarts.

From Wednesday, the UCT Department of Student Affairs (DSA) will begin helping students move back to their residences from their emergency accommodation.

The academic programme will resume on Monday, 26 April, according to Phakeng and each faculty will communicate with their students about how it will make up for the lost time.

CAPE TOWN FIRE NOW UNDER CONTROL AND RESIDENTS ARE ENCOURAGED TO RETURN HOME

On Monday, 19 April, the City of Cape Town declared the wildfire under control. People from some affected residential areas and students from UCT were encouraged to begin returning home on Tuesday.

Firefighters, however, continue to tackle the blaze in Deer Park and the Disa Park Towers in Vredehoek. The City’s Fire and Rescue Services’ spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said residential buildings are not in immediate danger but fire crews are in a position to act if there are any flare-ups.

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Presh JM Reporter

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