Unisa students not happy with decision to have one long semester
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Pretoria - Students at Unisa have expressed unhappiness with the decision of the institution to have only one long semester this year.
SRC president Wadzanai Mazhetese said they had received an overwhelming number of complaints from students against the decision to have the so-called super-semester.
The university had urged students to register all first and second semester modules within the current window as there would not be another opportunity to register.
This, however, left students frustrated as it meant there would not be mid-year examinations as the institution sought to wait to start the academic year much later to accommodate 2020 matriculants.
Exams will only be written much later at the end of the year or academic year.
Some students who were hoping to finalise their studies and finish off one or two last modules in the first half of the year said this decision should have not affected them because they had nothing to do with anything in the first year.
The students have started a petition that has already garnered over 11 000 signatures, in which they argue that two semesters are better than one. They also stated the decision would affect students negatively in various ways.
According to them, they are expected to write 10 examinations in November and December, but this will lead to them having to get more paid and unpaid study leave in one month, leading to financial implications.
“Being a part-time and distance learning student during a pandemic is already very challenging; the recent changes will only make it harder for students who are already struggling to cope with the stress of studying and finances.
“The decision taken has no consideration for the mental well-being of students and their families.
“Minister (of Higher Education, Science and Technology) Dr Blade Nzimande announced that the academic year would start in March after matric results had been released. Other major universities have maintained a two-semester system, with only first-year students starting the academic year in March.
“We ask for the same opportunity, as it is unnecessary and unreasonable to hold back more than 300 000 students because of outstanding matric results,” they argued.
Meanwhile, Mazhetese said Unisa took advantage of the pandemic by making people work and took this decision without proper consultation with students, hence the frustrations have just mounted.
He said the SRC would be meeting management to engage them further about the impact of this decision. Mazhetese said if everything else failed students might have no choice but to protest for their future.
Responding to Pretoria News, Unisa said it had taken a decision to adjust the academic plan for 2021 in line with Nzimande’s directive to synchronise the commencement of the academic year with those of other universities.
“In order to effect the adjustments to the academic plan, associated activities had to be considered, leading to the proposed one extended examination sitting. The university has considered, in particular, students who are in their final year of study to ensure that they are not disadvantaged in completing their studies within the planned proposed completion period.
“Plans are under way to consider a special concession to accommodate these students. The university continuously engages with its stakeholders to ensure they understand the decisions and direction taken, however, due to time constraints extensive engagements are not always possible.”