Students threaten to shut down Unisa

UNISA Students singing outside Durban UNISA Picture:SANDILE MAKHOBA

UNISA Students singing outside Durban UNISA Picture:SANDILE MAKHOBA

Published Sep 1, 2015


Durban - Students from Unisa have threatened to shut down the institution if their demands for the immediate reopening of 18 recently closed exam centres and the removal of a newly introduced acceptance fee are not met.

Ten of the exam venues were in KwaZulu-Natal.

By Monday, protest action had already started at the KwaZulu-Natal campus, where students, led by the national and regional student representative councils, demonstrated their unhappiness.

Local students also said they did not have enough study space and claimed assignments were being lost.

The Unisa SRC’s national secretary-general, Buyisile Njokeni, said the 10 exam centres to be shut included those in Umlazi, Nkandla, Mtubatuba and Mount Edgecombe.

He said the closures forced students to relocate to other exam venues at short notice.

Njokeni said he had visited the affected KwaZulu-Natal venues and all appeared to be of a good standard.

In June, hundreds of Unisa students in Durban demanded to be allowed to rewrite exams after being pelted with stones while they sat their exams.

Students writing a variety of subjects were attacked by about 40 other students at an exam venue near the Moses Mabhida Stadium. The attacking students had demanded to be allowed to write their papers despite being late, and the police were called in to restore order.

Students said they were late because the exam venues nearest to them had been shut.

Unisa spokesman Martin Ramotshela said exam venues in KZN, Cape Town and East London would be “changing”.

He did not respond to questions on how many exam venues in Kwazulu-Natal were to be closed, and in which areas they were located.

Nationally, Unisa leases 390 exam venues from landlords. But Ramotshela said the SRC had been informed of changes to the KwaZulu-Natal exam venues early last month, and the rest of its students would be notified well ahead of the start of the October exams.

Campuses in the Eastern Cape and Cape Town were preparing to start demonstrating on Tuesday.

“Comrades in Tshwane, Limpopo and Mpumalanga are preparing to join us as soon as they have to,” Njokweni said.

He said that one bone of contention was the failure by the Unisa management to consult the student body, which was the mass stakeholder when making decisions that had the potential to affect them.

The university of distance education closed 18 exam centres between May and August and effectively closed off access to thousands of students in KZN, the Eastern Cape and Cape Town, he said.

Most of the walk-in venues were within easy reach for students in locations and townships and saved many people the burden of travelling to the city.

“They would now be required to take two or three taxis to town to write their exams at a huge cost to them,” Njokweni said.

Ramotshela said there were appropriate modes of communication through which they should have aired their grievances. He said that the university used external service providers to identify and source exam venues, which were secured through lease agreements. There were 390 Unisa exam centres nationally and 600 internationally.

“When a venue changes it is generally the result of a lease having expired, not being renewed or unavailability, the need to move to a different venue due to unsatisfactory service delivery or other rational business reasons.”

The Mercury

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