NMMU welcomes withdrawal of #FeesMustFall Movement interdict attempt

NOVEMBER 17, 2016

The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) on Wednesday welcomed the decision by a section of the NMMU Fees Must Fall movement and its fellow applicants to withdraw its application for a court interdict against the University’s academic completion plan.

"The University received notice from the Fees Must Fall students’ attorneys this afternoon that they would be withdrawing the application from the Grahamstown High Court and will be paying all the University’s costs," the university said.

"This after they were presented with the University’s answering affidavit, which effectively counters all allegations that its Academic Completion Plan was 'exclusionary and discriminatory'.

"The withdrawal effectively supports the University’s view that the application was ill conceived and that the University has done all it could to ensure that all its students, irrespective of economic stand point, have an opportunity to complete the academic year if they so choose."

According to the NMMU, this is the second time in as many weeks that legal attempts against the University have failed, following a High Court ruling in NMMU’s favour in a matter brought against it by the Concerned Association of Parents and Others for the Tertiary Education at Universities (CAPTU).

"The Fees Must Fall movement initially served NMMU with the application on 12 November 2016, which proved to be defective. The complete application was served on the University the following day.

"The University asked the applicants’ attorneys for the matter to be heard later in the week – Thursday or Friday – and this was agreed to by the attorneys. However, despite this agreement, the applicants proceeded to the Grahamstown High Court yesterday. The University’s legal team was therefore compelled to appear at the Grahamstown High Court at 4pm on 15 November 2016," it added.

The application sought an order for the University to, inter alia:

  • Come up with alternative teaching and learning methods that do not exclude the Fees Must Fall students
  • Failing the above, a discontinuation of the E-Learning methods in place as part of the Academic Completion Plan
  • Make provision for the applicants who failed to make submissions via E-Learning to do so, and to give reasonable time for them to submit the necessary assessments that could not be submitted.

"The applicants had further stated that if the University refuses to relinquish the E-Learning system, it should cater for students’ accommodation costs, make provision for food in the form of SBux and IntelliCard vouchers and for counselling services to be made available," the NMMU said.

It said that the Academic Completion Plan – which is a supplemental, multi-layered teaching and assessment approach that includes that of an expansion of online options –  was effected as a result of the continued #FeesMustFall shutdown as previous attempts to peacefully resume classes were thwarted by protest action.

"Contrary to the applicants’ claims, it is not solely using the E-Learning platform – which is in line with a long intended move towards the expansion of digital learning methods – but a blended learning approach made accessible to all students.

"The plan is in line with the University’s commitment to its obligation to ensure the successful completion of the 2016 academic year," the university said.

"NMMU has, like other universities across the country, been contending with a national funding crisis that, despite the solution not resting solely with universities, has played itself out on the doorsteps of tertiary institutions.

"Since the current wave of national #FeesMustFall student protests began on 20 September 2016, after Higher Education and Training minister Blade Nzimande’s pronouncement on 2017 fees, the University has sought an amicable end to the resulting shutdown through endless engagement. This included court-mandated mediation."

It added that the continuous engagement was to avoid the confrontational approach and subsequent large-scale damage and disruption witnessed at other universities around the country, with NMMU management taking a decision to suspend academic activities pending, and in the hope of, an agreement ultimately being reached.

"The continued negotiations with the protesting students – which include the applicants – were unsuccessful, with the students continuously moving the goal posts. All proposals aimed at ensuring the opening of the NMMU campuses that were put to the students were rejected. 

"It soon became apparent that the applicants would not accept anything other than free education for all. Until this demand was met, they insisted on closing the NMMU, regardless of the consequence," the NMMU said.

"The Academic Completion Plan, designed with the average student in mind, was therefore put in action when previous attempts to resume classes on campus proved unsuccessful and of risk to non-protesting students and staff.

"The University is of the view that a thinly veiled attempt to obstruct the NMMU from completing the 2016 academic year was at the heart of this application.

"NMMU reaffirms its commitment to completing this academic year and is doing all in its power to ensure the extended academic programme does not adversely impact on its 2017 intake of students."