Campus strike strands students
Johannesburg - Lecturers at the South West Gauteng Further Education and Training (FET) College’s Dobsonville campus in Soweto went on a wildcat strike on Monday, leaving hundreds of students stranded.
Earlier in the morning, the lecturers had chased campus manager Busisiwe Setati out of the college, accusing her of nepotism and failing to provide leadership.
The lecturers said they were incensed that Setati had testified for college principal Andrew Dube, who was suspended last year.
Dube was found guilty and has since been dismissed. He is appealing.
Hundreds of students loitered around the campus or stood chatting as lecturers remained locked in a meeting.
Many students said they were frustrated at how FET colleges were failing them. Their complaints included a shortage of learning facilities and resources, poor teaching standards, and corruption in the awarding of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
A report by the Department of Higher Education and Training presented to Parliament’s portfolio committee on higher education revealed gross irregularities in the FETs.
The report also revealed backlogs in the issuing of certificates dating as far back as 2007, the leaking of exam papers, and the problem of ghost writers.
The problems have persisted despite the department pumping millions of rand into the colleges.
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said last year his department was implementing a “comprehensive turnaround strategy” for all 50 FET colleges, covering the 264 campuses in the country.
The strategy, he said, was aimed at “systematically addressing key challenges and achieving sustainable improvements in the quality of teaching and learning”.
A year on, students continue to battle with the same problems.
“There are fewer classrooms. There are no lessons (taking place). There are results pending. There is no registration taking place,” said Desiree Sibeko, 30, a human resources student.
Mbali Rex, 18, from Dobsonville, said she had opted for the FET college as she needed practical experience instead of theoretical knowledge.
“The whole concept was fascinating when I came here. I thought it would give me the best of both worlds - the theoretical and practical aspects to get me ready for the workplace.”
But she said her dream was fast dissipating. The education she was getting was “utterly disappointing”.
“I should have started getting practical lessons in level 2. Nothing has happened so far. This is not what I wanted. It focuses more on theory instead of the practical training. It’s really not different from high school. But I think high school is much better because it’s better managed there.”
Attempts to get comment from the Department of Higher Education and Training were unsuccessful.
Summing up the FET challenges:
* Shortage of classrooms and resources, including computer labs.
* Under-qualified and inefficient staff, including lecturers.
* Inferior education standards.
* Corruption and nepotism, including the misuse of funds.
* A porous exam system, rife with leakages of exam papers and ghost writers.
* An inefficient IT system, resulting in high rejection levels of qualifications by Umalusi, the quality assurance body.
* Backlogs in the issuing of certificates, some dating as far back as 2007.