NMMU lambasted for giving parents and students 'false' assurances of safety
The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) has been lambasted by parents and students for giving them what they called false assurances of safety when it tried to re-open classes this week following a month-long #FeesMustFall shutdown.
The university had hoped classes would resume on Tuesday, however the situation soon got out of hand as public order police officers clashed with #FeesMustFall protesters at the institution. Violence also reigned on campus on Wednesday and Thursday.
In spite of this, the NMMU, in its communications with parents and students, consistently gave the impression that the situation was under control – even suggesting that some learning had taken place.
“Our kids are unfortunately not based in Port Elizabeth and we rely on facts as to when classes resume and if these facts are untrue it is a problem. We cannot take time off work and pay for fuel to ride up and down unnecessarily that they must understand. It is different for those who live there and can go and see for themselves if it is safe or not to enter,” said an East London parent, who wrote to RNEWS to register her displeasure at the way the NMMU was handling the situation.
“We as parents are concerned about all the misinformation we are receiving … it states we must contact 041-5042009 & 041-5043483 for any security concerns. I called yesterday [Tuesday] as well as today [Wednesday] and was told by a lady that they have been informed by management to tell anyone who calls that it is safe to enter campus even if it is not.
“This is very dangerous because our children are travelling back and forth from E/L – P/E only to be met with violent protests whereas we are informed it is safe to enter. People’s lives are at stake here and nobody is prepared to take accountability for those lives.”
On its Facebook page, the NMMU has also been receiving a huge number of similar concerns after classes were disrupted, entrances blocked, cars were damaged and students arrested.
“I do not condone this act but this page and its admin should be held accountable for those stoned cars. You consistently insisted that people be on campus even though the situation determined otherwise,” said one commentator.
“We might just be a source of income to you, and that's why you are adamant on resuming academic activities, but contrary to your belief, we actually do value our life. Get your priorities in order,” said another.
On commentator said that the university must just cancel lectures for the rest of the year or use online assessments for the outstanding semester tests and exams.
“All NMMU cares about is completing the academic year. There is tons of miss communication and no consideration towards student safety. Not even the residences are safe for students these days,” said another commentator.
“ Which lectures have 'taken place'? I've come to varsity two days in a row and either I can't get to my venue and if I do my lecturer is nowhere to be found after telling us the lecture will continue. NMMU has been 'state captured' management is no longer in control,” asked another.
NMMU now looking to alternatives
Meanwhile, after violence broke out for a third day on Thursday, the NMMU announced that due to circumstances on the ground, which have made it increasing difficulty to conduct lectures on its South Campus, it was looking into deliverying learning through alternative means.
"We understand that these circumstances have been quite traumatic for most, and perhaps all our staff and students. It is important to hold onto the resolve to complete studies started this year. We remain determined, as we have always been, to do our best to get our academic programmes completed as far as possible in 2016," the university.
"We wish to confirm that NMMU remains open. That said, as things stand, we do understand that it will not be possible to conduct classes on South Campus.
"However, we will be employing a range of alternative modalities in order to best complete this year’s programmes. We will prioritise getting the modules completed for those students in their final years of study, but will also address all years of study."
The NMMU said that at the moment, faculties are making assessments taking into consideration year levels, module types, teaching and learning requirements and a range of modalities.
"These include learning resources such as learning packs, digital resources, and a variety of learning spaces as well as assessment requirements. We are also making assessments in each faculty of what is required for postgraduate students to complete their work in order to graduate next year," the university.
"It is important to note that the majority of universities in South Africa are in a similar position, but each university also has particular circumstances, capacities and contexts to consider. Many of the institutions have undertaken to assist each other where possible by sharing resources where there are overlaps in module outcomes and content. This is a welcome development, and will stand us in good stead for future collaborations in the higher education sector.
"Faculties will communicate exact arrangements for each of the modules soon. We will continue to provide various kinds of support during this period, the details of which will be made known early next week, and on an ongoing basis.
"Exam dates will be communicated once the assessment of programmes referred to above has been completed."
In the meantime,the NMMU said that lecturers have already been providing materials online and in other forms, and "we ask that students be proactive in pursuing their learning through open education resources, textbooks, library materials and information they may be able to source from peers in other institutions".
"In respect to on campus residences, which had encountered several difficulties, we need to reiterate that they have to remain safe areas. A number of measures to support our resident students are available and we will do all we can to ensure the residences remain conducive for living and learning.
"We request your understanding and patience as we shift from full contact only to a mixture of contact and alternative teaching and learning delivery modes. We urge students to take self-responsibility, and keep determined to complete their studies this year, despite the challenging circumstances we are experiencing as a sector and as a country," it said.
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