Varsities’ plans to see out 2016

2016-10-30 06:00
Academics protest on the steps of Wits University in support of students who are against university. (Picture: Leon Sadiki)

Academics protest on the steps of Wits University in support of students who are against university. (Picture: Leon Sadiki)

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In a desperate bid to save the 2016 academic year, various universities have made plans for students to write examinations in the presence of high security to thwart protesters.

Some universities have found innovative ways to soldier on regardless and to complete their academic programme, despite the violent, ongoing protests.

#FeesMustFall campaigners had vowed to shut down institutions of higher learning around the country to force government to accede to their demands for a free education.

Universities such as Free State University have decided to have fewer students on campuses, saying some of their exams will be written online for the first time in history.

Others, such as Tshwane University of Technology, extended their academic programme by two weeks, which meant some examinations will be written mid-December into January, due to the academic year’s teaching schedule now carrying on into late November and early December.

After having extended the academic year by two weeks, Wits University this week completed its teaching programme despite class disruptions, violent protests and a high police presence on campus.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said their contact teaching has been supplemented by online teaching through e-learning platforms.

It was clear that some students were not attending for various reasons, while others raced against time to complete the syllabus.

The next challenge was to ensure the smooth writing of examinations, something which Wits was committed to doing even under increased security presence, Patel said. Wits was committed to saving the 2016 academic year.

Meanwhile, the University of Cape Town (UCT) said it has since October 17 done most of its academic activities “via online and a digital approach”, with exams scheduled to start on November 7.

However, not all UCT’s examinations will be written this year.

“Deferred exams are scheduled for January 23 to February 10 next year. Some students may wish to defer their full set of exams to January, while others might opt to write in November,” said UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola.

He added that UCT will put “the necessary security measures” in place “to ensure that exams proceed without further disruptions”.

At the University of the Free State, teaching and learning at undergraduate and honours levels will resume in the coming week.

But there will be no face-to-face teaching.

Teaching and learning will not take place in the classrooms, but through a different mode of delivery consisting of a combination of printed and recorded lectures.

Study materials and learning aids would be provided by the university and delivered through various platforms, said UFS spokesperson Lacea Loader.

“In this manner, no attempts at disrupting the rest of the academic year will affect our students’ academic programme.

“A contingency plan is ready, to ensure that students are able to complete the academic year.

"And the university is working with the SA Police Service to make sure that adequate security measures are in place.”

She said this would include the deployment of additional security when some of the students return to the campus on October 31.

These arrangements would stay in place throughout the exam period.

“Some students will be writing exams on campus, while others will write online,” Loader explained.

The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University has also explored innovative paths for contingency plans to get through the academic programme.

However, spokesperson Zandile Mbabela refused to divulge the details, saying management considered the matter sensitive, and to reveal the details could compromise the safety of the students.

North West University said relative calm has returned to its Mafikeng campus this week, and catch-up tests were being written.

The examination date was extended from October 24 to October 29, and the schedule will be completed on November 18.

Second opportunity tests will start on November 22 to December 6, said North West University spokesperson Koos Degenaar.

“Management is committed to saving this semester, and has put measures in place to ensure that exams continue. Security will be deployed at all venues,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology has decided to suspend all face-to-face classes on campuses for the rest of the year.

All deferred and outstanding reassessments will commence in January.

“Students who do not write their final assessments in November and December are encouraged to go home for their own safety,” said the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

Read more on:    education  |  fees must fall  |  protests

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