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Universities go all-out to make up for lost time

University of Pretoria students use the computer lab to study. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

University of Pretoria students use the computer lab to study. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Published Oct 24, 2016

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Pretoria - Universities in Pretoria have stepped up efforts to make up for lost time and salvage what is left of the 2016 academic year.

Much of the time was lost because of the #FeesMustFall protests, and there is now less than a month for students to conclude their academic year.

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At the University of Pretoria, as course material was taken online, computer labs have reopened for students who do not have internet access for researching, typing, submitting assignments and studying.

The labs in the Technical Services Building have been made available for this purpose.

To accommodate everybody, students are able to spend up to three hours a day in the lab. “Students may not always be able to enter the labs at the time of their choice," the university said.

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Final-year information science student Nomalungelo Mkhabela welcomed the opportunity. “Some of us don’t have access computers at home. The computer centre allows us to have extensive access to the university database.”

Another information science student, Andile Mkhize, said the gesture showed that university management had the students’ interests at heart.

“I still support #FeesMustFall, but equally I realise that the academic year needs to be completed.”

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Lecturers upload lectures for students. Some met students in parks and coffee shops and students are also forming study groups.

At the Tshwane University of Technology, students were requested to attend classes and prepare for the remaining tests.

Spokeswoman Willa de Ruyter said that despite disruptions at some campuses, the university remained steadfast to ensure all students completed this year.

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“In view of this, academic activities and tests scheduled will continue at all campuses from October 24 (on Monday),” said De Ruyter.

Students were encouraged to use myTutor and other virtual platforms for test schedules and other important information.

But some students said they needed a whole lot more to catch up for lost time.

Martin Rabede, second-year education student, said the university was exerting too much pressure on them. “How are we expected to attend classes, at times submit two or three assignments in a day and still write tests in between presentations and other academic engagements?”

Engineering student Masego Skhosana said the pressure was likely to affect academic performance at the end of the semester.

Some staff members told the Pretoria News of a message on social media indicating that students would interrupt classes, which received overwhelming condemnation. Students responded to the message and promised to defend their precious academic time, according to staff members.

“This showed they are really in no mood for a protest or anything that could compromise their semester any further,” a staff member said.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe has warned that failure to complete the academic year could have a ripple effect on matriculants.

He said thousands of matriculants could lose their placements in universities and colleges should higher education institutions not complete the year.

Chris de Beer, interim vice-chancellor of Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Pretoria North, has announced that fees for next year will not increase. The decision was taken by the council to ensure stability on campus and successful completion of the academic year.

Peace has continued to prevail at Unisa, and applications for admission to most undergraduate courses closed on Friday.

Vice-chancellors of 26 universities across the country took out a full-page newspaper advertisement under the banner Universities South Africa to express their commitment and conviction that the 2016 academic project would be completed.

“We call on our students to succeed academically... We call on student leaders not to sacrifice the academic project on the altar or narrow interest, party political agendas, and to desist from making demands that universities cannot fulfil,” it read.

“Our universities face the real prospect of an early shutdown... abandonment of the 2016 academic year will delay the entry of more than 180 000 graduates into the workplace... (and) incoming matriculants will have to postpone entry into university.”

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Pretoria News

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