Rhodes University is a veritable hub of individual endeavour, with many undertaking a range of activities to make life safer and better for their fellow South Africans.
None of it is easy in a lockdown where physical distancing is a requirement — but there are ways and means to make it work.
Rhodes University’s pharmacy department is producing hundreds of litres of scarce hand sanitiser for the province, its in-house sewing department is making face masks, its SA Numeracy Chair (Sanc) is putting together free online primary school numeracy resources and activities and its community engagement section is finding dozens of ways to inform and educate communities about the disease.
Walker said some was being used at Rhodes itself, as well as at local hospitals and clinics.
The health department was receiving the latest batches and would distribute it where it was most needed in the eastern half of the province.
There is an international shortage of hand sanitiser and surgical masks since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Walker says they are following the WHO formula requiring ethanol, glycerol and hydrogen peroxide.
He said the SA Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) had contributed large amounts of the ingredients.
“It’s not easy.
“We are working in a laboratory not a production facility so the capacity to manufacture and manually label and pack large quantities has been difficult.”
Down the road, the director of residential operations at the university, Jay Pillay, and housekeeping manager Ndumi Magodla rallied the sewing room team to make scarce protective masks.
“At Rhodes, we have been struggling for weeks to find protective masks for essential service staff remaining on our campus during lockdown.”
Troubled by this and how members of the police, SANDF, local Settlers Hospital and others would cope, she and Magodla decided to rally their team and their resources.
They made 100 masks in 48 hours.
They are also calling on the local community with sewing machines to assist in turning fabric scraps into double-sided masks.
“We are mindful that these masks work but are not as effective as the surgical masks for medical personnel.
“But at least it offers some protection in the absence of the compliant disposable masks.”
CEO director Di Hornby said the campaign, called “Gxotha-I Covid-19” (chase away Covid-19) has seen CEO co-ordinator Nosi Nkwinti and her team donating soap to communities and sharing all the information at their disposal.
Sanc is posting daily to share its free primary school numeracy resources and ideas for activities for children in lockdown.
These can be accessed at www.ru.ac.za/sanc and from their math club website https://mathsclubs.co.za/
Prof Walker said physical distancing during the outbreak was essential but for the sake of society, people should stay busy, find ways to help and stay in touch with friends and their community without coming into physical contact.
“It has opened the possibility of doing things completely differently and of doing things creatively to help resolve a serious problem.”