Nurses, under the umbrella of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA (Denosa) on Friday took to Pretoria's streets and marched to the South African Nursing Council, in protest over the cancellation of the exam which had been written last month.
The cancellation affected 3 417 first-year bridging and 1 589 second-year bridging students.
With the bridging course studies for a year, enrolled nursing students would become general and psychiatric nurses, and get better pay.
But their plans were thwarted when the SANC nullified all written papers and cancelled ongoing exams.
The council also announced an investigation into the apparent leaks.
Saying they had evidence of the leaks, SANC said: “Some candidates have had access to the examination question papers prior to the dates on which the examinations were conducted.”
Spokesperson Party-Day Moloi said a security breach of this nature did not only affect individual candidates, but also destroyed the credibility of the entire examination.
“It also affects the integrity of nursing education in general,” she said.
The council, which oversees, registers, monitors and regulates the profession, said it took the decision to nullify the compromised examinations and issued a circular to this effect, to the principals of all nursing education institutions and other stakeholders within their mandate.
It said it had also gone on to ensure all affected were aware of it and would announce the new dates on which the exams would be held.
“In an effort to minimise any prejudice and inconvenience to students, the examinations have been scheduled for the earliest possible dates to ensure that the candidates are not made to wait until the investigations are completed,” Moloi said.
But this did not ease the tensions of students across the country, and on Friday they descended on the Pretoria offices of the SANC to voice their disapproval.
What started off as a march characterised by singing and the waving of placards became chaotic as the crowd approached the council offices in Hatfield.
Marchers overturned rubbish bins and started burning their contents, storming the gates and demanding to meet top management.
They proceeded to occupy the premises after security personnel denied them entry to the building, singing derogatory songs and dancing.
They refused to listen to officials explaining that the chief executive was in a meeting: “What is more important though, her meeting or us?” they shouted.
They shouted “burn, burn, and burn” and with that they threw rubbish at the building entrance and set it alight. They said they had come from far and wide and expected the right audience for their effort: “We did not travel all the way here toleave without any response, That woman (the CEO) better come out here and face us,” one of the students shouted.
Students were from all over the country.
The bone of contention, Denosa deputy secretary-general Kwena Manamela explained was “Circular 2”, which stated that students had to rewrite their exams.
“The exams referred to are the ones that students already wrote and now everyone must rewrite them,” he said.
“All efforts were put into writing that examination and to be told you won’t get any results is really frustrating,” Manamela said.
Pretoria North student Keitumetse Ditabo said she did not want to rewrite as it was unfair that all her sleepless nights studying now amounted to nothing.
“I have neglected my family for months preparing for those exams. Now, when I’m supposed to bond with my children, I am told I will have to neglect them once more no,” she exclaimed.
Different stakeholders, including Denosa and student representatives, were locked in a meeting until late Friday to find a settlement.