In a email sent to staff and students of the NMMU earlier today the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sibongile Muthwa spoke of the difficulty of negotiating with “various student factions” and the failure of protesters to submit a “consolidated petition representing students’ concerns”.
We at MyPE have been following the protests (along with most of the country) and would like to point out that certain very important stakeholders have been omitted from the direct conversation, namely: Those parents, bursary givers, taxpayers and financial institutions that are currently funding tertiary education.
At this moment in time it would appear that a minority is holding a majority to ransom. Yes, that majority, just like my hard pressed wife and who are struggling to keep our second child at university, do support the possibility of having fees reduced but are now at a tipping point as lectures, tests and exams are being missed and parents are now concerned that further disruptions could add another year of expensive study.
The reality is simple – Education over the years has ground slowly to this impasse AND it will take many years to break it down again.
The plea to #FeesMustFall protesters is – Please find another way to continue with your vital contribution, one that ensures that people who are paying will not be prejudiced by your actions – lest you lose all sympathy that you may presently have!
The email from the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sibongile Muthwa read:
A group of students and other individuals who are not registered students or staff members seem determined to destablise our University. This is of huge concern to us since the safety and security of our staff and students is a key priority – hence the decision to advise staff and students to stay away.
There have been a series of violent incidents throughout the Higher Education sector following Minister’s announcement on Monday.
At NMMU, various student groupings, including the Student Representative Council (SRC), initially formed a coalition to collectively voice their concerns in relation to the announcement, but were divided in their approach.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, management tried to engage with this joint group publicly on two occasions but this proved to be unsuccessful as the students were not unified on the way forward. No memorandum of demands was handed over by students in Port Elizabeth at these gatherings. The George Student Council did, however, submit a petition.
The student groupings in both Port Elizabeth and George are now completely divided, making engagement and decision-making much more complicated and protracted.
A petition was submitted to the Acting Vice Chancellor, Dr Sibongile Muthwa, via e-mail by the SRC just before 11:00 today, but it is not clear whether this represents the concerns of the various student formations.
Some student groupings are sharing inaccurate information via social media, especially with regards to management failing to respond to the students’ demands. In spite of several invitations from management to submit a consolidated petition representing students’ concerns, this has not yet been forthcoming.
NMMU management is empathetic that the present uncertainty is causing considerable anxiety among staff and students, especially given that these disruptions are negatively impacting on the 2016 academic programme. We will soon be sharing in detail the proposed responses to the present challenges facing both NMMU and the sector in general.
Management remains committed to various forms of engagement towards reaching resolutions to restore normality on our campuses. The invitation is open to the leadership of the various student formations in the interests of resuming the academic project soonest.
A number of interventions have already been implemented in an attempt to minimise the negative impact of time already lost due to the disruptions. This includes making alternative arrangements for tests and assignments that were scheduled for 21-23 September 2016. Further communication in this regard will follow from the DVC Teaching and Learning.
Should our engagement with students prove to be yet again inconclusive, the University will be compelled to implement drastic measures going forward including possibly bringing our academic project to a halt until we can guarantee the safety of all our students and staff.
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