UWC nursing students upset over exclusion from exams, citing impact of Covid-19
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Cape Town - Nursing students at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) are up in arms over the institution’s refusal to relax the examination entry requirements due to Covid-19.
The Denosa Student Movement Western Cape said it was disturbed after more than 30 nursing students received a notification that they did not qualify for the examinations, which started on Monday, because they failed to meet the minimum number of clinical hours worked, which is 80%.
The movement said the university’s clinical guideline also stipulated that 100% clinical hours were needed for students to be promoted to the next academic year.
It called on the university to adjust to 50% as a qualifying mark for all clinical exams in nursing to accommodate students “that had no control over the pandemic and its effects”.
The movement’s secretary, Fanny Ferris, said that, in light of the third wave of Covid-19, the Department of Higher Education adjusted the academic programme to comply with regulations in an effort to salvage the 2020 and 2021 academic years.
“Higher learning institutions are to effectively implement the stipulated changes to academic programmes to ensure safety and academic excellence. UWC clinical guidelines date back prior to the pandemic.
“The assessment rule of 80% is not achievable and unrealistic due to the fact that students get screened for signs of Covid-19. Should they have a symptom or are sick, they are refrained from skills laboratory or clinical placements at health facilities.
“This dilemma means that they are already set up for failure and unable to obtain the 80%. Students that were on maternity leave were also discriminated against, as they are excluded from the opportunity to write examinations, on top of the 80% assessment rule,” said Ferris.
Ferris said the pandemic resulted in the academic programme starting late, in conjunction with the practical component starting late, as students returned to health-care facilities late.
She said students should be allowed entry to examinations and be provided with deficit letters for them to work in the hours over weekends and during the vacation.
One of the students, who asked not to be named, said after falling sick she was told to find dates to work back the hours missed, but was not allowed to work four consecutive days a week.
“This makes me feel angry because UWC is the only university with the rule of 80% that has always been hindering students to pass. I feel that they should allow students a fair opportunity to write and pass their exams and rather let them deal with the fact that they won’t be able to graduate due to hours owing, as the South African Nursing Council (SANC) requires about 4 000 hours of practicals for one to qualify. One could always work back their hours for as long as they grant students deficit letters,” she said.
SRC president Phumelelani Mshumi said they were aware of the issue and that upon engaging the management, a communication was sent out that the students would be allowed to continue working clinical hours owed until August for entry in the next round of examinations.
UWC acting spokesperson Nashira Davids said the 80% was based on the time frame available to achieve the clinical hours and was adjusted to allow for the time frames to commensurate with the constraints imposed by the pandemic.
“Given that the Bachelor of Nursing programme is being phased out (by end 2024), we have been proactive in submitting an application to the Community and Health Sciences Faculty Assessment Committee requesting a special exam for students who would meet 80% clinical hours at the time of the Senate Discretionary Examination.
“This will serve at the next Faculty Assessment Committee meeting, and we will only know the outcome of this request at that time. Students were informed and we are encouraging students to continue working clinical hours to meet the required number of hours,” she said.
Davids said students had not been prevented from entering the skills lab or placements since July 2020. She said the exam qualification rule, which was based on the requirements from the SANC, was that no students will be admitted to the final assessment of any year-level unless 80% of the specified clinical hours have been completed by the deadline for the announcement of continuous assessment marks for the semester/year.