UKZN in disarray as dean resigns after uproar over scrapping of modules

2013-10-07 00:00

THE University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Arts is in disarray after its dean resigned just hours after his staff revolted against an announcement that Afrikaans and several European languages were to be scrapped from the curriculum.

The resignation of Professor Nogwaja Shadrack Zulu, head of the School of Arts, came just hours after several of his management committee members resigned in protest at his announcement last Wednesday that there would be a massive realignment of the faculty that would see courses scrapped, minimised and amalgamated.

The cluster leaders accused Zulu of not taking their input and motivation for why the languages should not be scrapped into consideration.

In an e-mail sent to the UKZN management, the rebelling staff said: “These unilateral decisions had been taken with no regard for the positions and motivations we were called upon to present as academic leaders in the school,” and found themselves to be “excluded” from decisions taken by the school’s executive.

Zulu stepped down on Friday morning after a meeting was called by the deputy vice-chancellor and head of college Cheryl Potgieter as the School of Arts’ management neared collapse.

Since Zulu’s resignation, almost all the cluster leaders within the school have returned, except one.

The upheaval was sparked by an e-mail sent late on October 2 and seen by The Witness in which Zulu said Afrikaans, German, Italian and Spanish would be scrapped from next year as part of UKZN’s turnaround strategy.

In the e-mail, Zulu said only modules with fewer than 50 undergraduate students, 10 more than reported last month, and five postgraduate courses would be affected.

“Afrikaans, German, Italian and Spanish are not viable disciplines at UKZN. The obvious implication is that first-year students will not be taken next year. Performance and visual arts disciplines are identified as being exceptions, especially where there is evidence of growth. All pipeline students in the affected disciplines will be taught till they exit,” said Zulu.

The dean added that French, which is offered at multiple campuses, should be centralised to just one and that drama and media modules be common to more than one campus, while there are discussions about media being moved to one campus.

“Modules that have links with the School of Education will be moved from the School of Arts,” said Zulu.

An e-mail was circulated thereafter, titled “Important Announcement”, which said that “the School of Arts Manco [academic cluster leaders] has collectively resigned effective immediately”.

Senior Afrikaans lecturer Darryl David said he was “disappointed” with the decision to scrap Afrikaans.

“There are still a few more steps to go before a final decision to scrap Afrikaans is completed. We hope to persuade them otherwise because of the national and provincial political and economic importance Afrikaans has in our country,” he said.

Attempts to contact Zulu proved unsuccessful.

In September, The Witness reported that modules would need to meet a certain enrolment threshold or face being axed as part of UKZN’s proposed minimum enrolment requirements. A document said modules would require 40, 20, 10 and five students for year one, two, three and four respectively to remain viable. It was also reported that over 700 modules over the four academic colleges would be scrapped, with the bulk coming from the humanities department.

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