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At 08h30 on the morning of 18th April 2021 a fire started near Rhodes Memorial adjacent to the University of Cape Town (UCT).  Fanned by strong winds blowing in the direction of our main campus, the fire spread over the course of the morning and afternoon to various locations on UCT’s Upper and Middle Campus.

Several historical buildings have been gutted by the runaway fire, one of the buildings was the Jagger Reading Room, which forms part of the UCT Libraries’ Special Collections.

UCT’s Special Collections consist of printed and audiovisual material on African studies and a wide array of other specialised subjects, as well as more than 1 300 sub-collections of unique manuscripts and personal papers. The collection of books and pamphlets exceeds 85 000 items on African studies alone, and the collection on African film is among the most extensive in the world, with over 3 000 films available for viewing and research.

The Jagger Reading Room (previously the JW Jagger Library) was constructed in the 1930s and was named after one of UCT Libraries’ main benefactors. Initially, the building served as the university’s main library, and later as a short-loans centre, before officially becoming the African Studies Library’s reading room.

In light of this, the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, announced that all academic activities would be suspended until 26 April. No classes, tutorials, laboratory work or tests will take place until this time.

There will be immense needs arising from this fire, both to help students and the wider UCT community in the immediate aftermath of this disaster.

Whether you are an alumnus of UCT, member of the wider Cape Town community, friend of the university or a philanthropic donor, please show your support for UCT and its students affected by this fire by giving or pledging now. You can do so here.

Donations can also be made by bank transfer or cheque. Please contact us at uct-trust@tecres.net for further details.