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Varsity College students call for exams to be written at home amid looming third wave

Varsity College student at the Rondebosch campus are calling to write their exams at home. EPA-EFE/BRAIS LORENZO

Varsity College student at the Rondebosch campus are calling to write their exams at home. EPA-EFE/BRAIS LORENZO

Published Jun 21, 2021


Independent Institute of Education’s (IIE) Varsity College students at the Rondebosch campus are up in arms over the college insisting they write examinations on campus amid the rising third wave.

The students are calling for the exams to be written at home due to the spike in the number of Covid-19 cases. On Sunday, South Africa recorded 13 155 new Covid-19 infections and 112 deaths.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa raised the lockdown restrictions to level three, last week.

Student Nadeema Williams said students felt that the college could not guarantee that hat no one would be infected by the virus while writing examinations on campus.

“They (the college) should refrain from playing God with the lives of students. The health and well-being of students should be their priority. Following the Covid-19 protocol is not a guarantee that students will not get infected as the normal protocol will not detect asymptomatic Covid-19 infected individuals who will actively infect others. Many of us have co-morbidities or family at home who have co-morbidities and are frail,” she said.

The students created an online petition. It has gained momentum with 5 690 signatures.

Williams said some take-home examinations were offered but not everyone was benefiting from them.

She said the college had initially said numerical subjects must be written on campus, yet some take-home examinations were theory subjects.

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“It is not fair that some students take home exams and others have to write on-campus exams. Varsity College is unwilling to budge, despite written complaints and appeals lodged by a lot of students.

Williams said the college had given them an option to postpone writing the semester 1 examinations. They would then have to write those along with the semester 2 examinations in December.

IIE academic operation manager Willie Scheepers said the examination policies had been considered by the institution amid the emerging third wave.

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“The IIE’s requirements for on-campus assessments are in line with the requirements of the higher education authorities in South Africa as well as with emerging best practice internationally.

“Where possible, we have reduced the number of modules for which on-campus assessments need to be written, to reduce the number of students on campus. We enforce a strict code of Covid-19 protocols on campus and have not experienced any cluster outbreaks.”

Scheepers said safety and hygiene protocols would be applied in all assessment venues and students spaced accordingly.

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He confirmed that students were given the option to postpone the semester 1 exam and write them in December.

“We understand that the risks of being on campus are considerably less than in social and community environments, where enforcement is much lower… This is a complex situation and we understand that it is stressful, but we believe our approach is in the best interests of our students and their studies. Should the national situation shift, we may be forced to change our current assessment plans.” he said.

A student, Lwethu Ndlovu, wrote: “I think Varsity College is not being practical and reasonable to adjust learning methods even during Covid pandemic. Most public universities are learning online. Why is Varsity College insisting on face-to-face learning?”

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