GEORGE NEWS - The Nelson Mandela University George Campus held a virtual remembrance service on Friday 26 March for those who passed on during the Covid-19 pandemic. Milisa Piko, the spokesperson for the George Campus, said the names of more than 200 loved ones who passed away as a result of Covid-19-related symptoms, were forwarded by staff and students and displayed on a screen.
"Also part of the tribute were three poets, who gave moving tributes in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa, paying homage to those who have passed on."
The George campus remembered two of its own colleagues who passed on during this period, namely Dr Jan van der Berg, lecturer in the business and economic science department, and Ms Ranita Orie, who had been with the campus for a short while at the support services department.
She says this was their way to give all staff and students the opportunity to collectively remember and celebrate the lives of family and friends lost since the Covid-19 pandemic came into our lives. It was hosted on the eve of the anniversary of South Africa's hard lockdown on 27 March 2020.
"The remembrance service was addressed by Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sibongile Muthwa, who shared words of comfort with the university community. Staff and students were given the opportunity to share the names of their loved ones who succumbed to the virus, or those whom they were not able to bid farewell because of the prevailing lockdown restrictions."
Muthwa said no one could have imagined then what lay ahead or how our world would be forever changed. "The pandemic has changed the way we work, study, live and even how we now behave. It has derailed our economy and has had a massive toll on our mental well-being and seriously impacted on our education system," she said.
"In the circumstances, there has been widespread hurt, anguish and deep loss. From something as simple as not being able to hug a friend, visit an elderly relative or enjoy a milestone occasion such as birthdays, weddings and, for us, graduation ceremonies."
Muthwa also spoke about how the pandemic has resulted in "tremendous loss of lives around the world", with more than 2,6-million recorded deaths globally, as at earlier this month.
"In South Africa, more than 50 000 people have died due to the pandemic, many of who come from our province and metro. We, as Mandela University, have not been immune. We have lost 11 staff members and one student to the pandemic. Each of these individuals has left a void in [the lives of] their colleagues, friends and families.
"The depth of our loss extends so much further since almost every one of us - our 3 500 staff members and 29 000 students - has been directly impacted, having unexpectedly lost friends, distant and immediate family members."
She said the pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions have meant that many people were unable to attend funerals, or even visit loved ones in their time of need - a hard situation for many as it goes against everything that caring, compassionate human beings are used to.
Muthwa said that is why it was important to give themselves an opportunity to reach out to each other, albeit virtually, in kindness, empathy and care in their shared loss.
The virtual service premiered on the university's YouTube channel on Friday.
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