Nzimande, Unizulu plot way forward
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Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has met the council of the University of Zululand (Unizulu) to try to get to the root of student protests and the suspensions of senior members of staff.
The KwaDlangezwa campus was closed for two weeks as students protested over funding, shortages of academic and support staff, overcrowded lecture halls and vacancies in the university’s senior leadership structure.
As a consequence of the senior staff suspensions, there are individuals temporarily acting in key positions, including executive director of the Richards Bay campus, dean of students, and deputy vice-chancellor of research and innovation.
There is still no word on the process of replacing vice-chancellor Professor Fikile Mazibuko, who resigned suddenly last year.
Nzimande’s trip to Unizulu followed last week’s urgent meetings between the director-general of the Higher Education Department, Gwebs Qonde, and students and staff.
It has been decided that a multidisciplinary task team composed of senior academics from around the country will work with the Unizulu council and management to help turn things around.
The turnaround strategy will be based on the recommendations of the report of the administrator Nzimande hired to take charge of Unizulu in 2011, when the council was dissolved.
Pretoria academic Professor Chris de Beer spent 30 months at Unizulu before letting go of the reins, and a new council was constituted.
A forensic audit overseen by De Beer uncovered serious and repeated transgressions of university policy and procedures, which staff and members of the council had used to enrich themselves.
More recently, students and staff at Unizulu have expressed serious reservations about the manner in which the education faculty is run.
According to the Council on Higher Education, after a 2007 review of the teacher education programmes at Unizulu, the university was put on notice of withdrawal of accreditation. However, the Council on Higher Education was satisfied with the improvement plans and progress reports submitted by the university since then.