Student sues over failure

2019-10-29 15:46
'Climate of fear' amid university inaction.

'Climate of fear' amid university inaction. (File)

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A student has taken the extraordinary measure of hauling the University of KwaZulu-Natal to court to account for the whereabouts of a question paper for an exam he failed.

Lephetha Japi, who lives in Bisley, has alleged that pages of the question paper of a supplementary English 102 exam he took in 2017 were “disorderly”, which caused him to fail the exam.

He has turned to the Pietermaritzburg high court in an attempt to get sight of the original examination question paper and to obtain a copy of it after he made several requests to UKZN for the paper, which supposedly went unanswered.

UKZN, however, says the question paper is nowhere to be found, and labelled this a “unique situation” in which the lecturer who set the paper, Darryl David, “failed to comply with protocols” of filing the question paper in the university’s records.

David is a well-known author and organiser of literary festivals around the country, who resigned from UKZN earlier this year to take up a position at the University of the Western Cape.

Compounding the problem is that David is apparently refusing to get involved in resolving the matter because he left UKZN on a sour note.

The matter came before Judge Anton van Zyl yesterday, where it was adjourned indefinitely.

Japi, who enrolled for a Bachelor of Law degree at the Pietermaritzburg campus, says in an affidavit that he was the only student who sat for the supplementary exam in December 2017. He alleged he noticed that “several pages” of the poetry section of the exam were not in the correct order.

He said he raised the issue with the invigilator, Sergio Teixeira, who “confirmed my doubts”, and said he would inform David, who was also tasked with marking the paper.

Japi says he was unable to complete the exam within the three-hour time period because of this issue.

He said after realising in January 2018 he had failed the exam, he e-mailed Teixeira about it, who said he noticed “no irregularities” in the paper.

Japi says he later submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Application (Paia) to UKZN to obtain the question paper, but claims it was “ignored”.

He says UKZN refused to make a copy available despite “numerous requests”.

But UKZN has said Japi is “not entitled” to having the court rule that UKZN must furnish him with the question paper because there is absolutely no trace of it.

In papers before court, a manager at the College of Humanities at Howard College, Adarsh Maharaj, who is involved in investigating Japi’s claims, claimed the usual protocol for filing question papers was not followed in this case.

Maharaj said that Japi failed the main English 102 exam and was granted a supplementary exam, but because of an “administrative glitch” by UKZN, he missed that supplementary exam.

It was later agreed that UKZN would allow Japi to write a new supplementary exam, which was prepared just for him by David, which is why Japi sat the exam on his own.

Maharaj said that normally an exam paper is taken to the administration department where it is printed out and filed. Also, students get to keep their question papers after exams.

However, in this case David had prepared and printed the exam out himself and did not ask university administration for help.

Maharaj said “all relevant possible” entities, places, filing systems and record departments at the university were searched but nothing has been found. “It is reasonable to believe it [the question paper] does not exist in the possession” of UKZN, he said.

The university did, however, locate Japi’s answer sheet and has given it to his attorneys. Maharaj said David was “refusing to co-operate now” after having apparently left on a sour note, and that Teixeira has also left the university.

He said the university had trouble contacting David because it did not have his contact details, adding that Japi’s attorneys had reached out to David on Facebook but they were allegedly told by David that he did not want to get involved.

David allegedly told Japi’s attorneys he was “off ill” when Japi sat for the exam. Maharaj said he did not know about Japi’s Paia application before this court matter.

Neither David nor Teixeira have been cited as party to this court matter.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn
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