'Classes' suspended at NMMU on Monday to allow for mediation process

OCTOBER 24, 2016

The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) says academic business will be suspended on Monday to allow for the current protracted mediation process ordered by the Grahamstown High Court between the university and its stakeholders, who include concerned parents and student leaders.

"While reiterating that the University remains open, we acknowledge that the mediation process is now at a critical and sensitive stage," the NMMU said. 

"Therefore, we deem it necessary to suspend teaching activities planned for Monday, 24th October 2016 in order to give parties in the mediation, time to finalise their consultations.

"The outcome of the mediation will be communicated as soon as the process is finalised. Teaching activities shall resume on Tuesday, 25th October 2016."

The announcement comes after the NMMU's Acting Vice-Chancellor: Dr Sibongile Muthwa, on Sunday said that the events witnessed and experienced during the past week at university go against everything the NMMU stands for, and everything it has wished to avoid.

"There were clashes between police and our students, reports of intimidation and violence, the stoning of cars, the burning of two buildings, damage to property, allegations of police brutality and the arrest of 33 students that has left our staff, students and their families highly anxious or traumatised.  We appreciate that you are disheartened, demoralised and frustrated. Many of you are wondering how you will be able to complete your studies and exams.

"What was supposed to have been an exciting return to academic activities to complete the 2016 year after a four-week shutdown turned into what has to be the worst week in NMMU’s 11-year history," she said.   

"We had peacefully returned to operations on Monday after finally reaching a broad agreement with the #FeesMustFall student leaders to resume classes the next day. But on Tuesday, clashes between police and protesting students broke out and classes were disrupted on some of the University’s six campuses.  With security improved, we chose to press on the next day in our resolve to complete the 2016 academic year, well knowing that time is already against us. On Wednesday, however, the protests took on an increased and more violent turn.  

"We are also particularly mindful of our students living in residences on campus who are unable to easily avoid the present turmoil. The Dean of Students, Mr Luthando Jack, has engaged the student housing staff on implementing measures that will ensure improved safety on campus residences."

Dr Muthwa added that the NMMU is deeply saddened by what everyone has experienced, and for the concern this must be causing you and your families.

She said that the University has availed counselling and other support interventions to students.

"The Psychology Clinic on South Campus and the Campus Health Clinic on North Clinic both remain open as safe spaces for you to receive support during this very difficult time.  Please also approach your residence managers or lecturers for any other help that you may need.

"As you will know, few face-to-face classes are taking place because of the risk of further interruptions. However, NMMU remains open. It has not closed," said the Acting Vice Chancellor.

"We have not closed the university because we remain committed to doing all that we can to ensure that you are able to complete the 2016 academic year by now offering alternative methods and means of teaching and assessment. It is what other South African universities are now doing under the circumstances.

"We are pleased to share, for example, that we have assessed what needs to be done to assist all our final-year students complete their programmes for 2016 and are confident that we are making progress. Details will be communicated early next week on the http://fmf.nmmu.ac.za website."

Dr Muthwa said that similar assessments are being conducted for all other years of study.

"These too will be communicated to you, initially in general way, and then by the Executive Deans of your faculties. Thereafter, you will receive more detailed information from your schools and departments to give you a better idea of the way ahead. Students will also have input into the new faculty-specific plan.  

"Apart from the University’s new academic recovery plan, a resource recovery support plan is being developed to ensure that all supporting mechanisms are in place to try to make it possible for all our students to complete their studies," she said.

"Given the logistical challenges associated with using alternative teaching and assessment methods, we shall need your support and that of the extended NMMU community to make it possible for you to fulfil your dreams of graduating or progressing to the next level."

Dr Muthwa said tha while planning continues, the University continues with the official mediation process ordered by the High Court, and to engage with the student leadership to bring an end to the present on-campus violence and disruptions.

"Without detracting from NMMU’s particular unhappy experiences of the past week and the many challenges it still faces, I believe it wise for us to remember that this is a national crisis. Our University is one of 26 severely affected by the free education for all campaign. As such, universities across the country are joining hands to find ways of jointly serving students in what has been a tumultuous year in the higher education sector," she dsecribed.

"Our apologies once again for angst that this turmoil is causing you. Please know that NMMU is going to do all that it can to make this happen and asks for your continued perseverance, courage and resilience in completing the year, albeit it in a less-than-ideal situation."