Chalk and Cheese
Students say no to mergers
existing infrastructure. The notion that our merger with RAU and other institutions has elevated TWR to university status is misplaced,” Monareng says.
“My institution is the preferred hunting ground for companies looking to recruit research people because our lecturers are disgruntled. They don’t have adequate facilities to help them in their work and are poorly remunerated, making them vulnerable to poaching,” he says. “That in turn is affecting the performance of students, especially those pursuing practical subjects.”
Tebogo Makola, an academic officer at UJ’s SRC, backs Monareng’s views. “Merging these institutions was a quick fix to a much bigger and complex problem. Instead of hastily bringing institutions together Government should have overhauled the education syllabus from scratch (beginning with township primary and high schools) and re-skilled teachers in those schools. To think the success and reputation of previously exclusive white universities would simply rub off on technikons through a quick merger is a far-fetched thought.”
Makola concludes the quality of teaching has been severely compromised by a disruptive process that’s left former technikon students worse off.
However, Ateeya Mohammed, a second year student in podiatry at the old RAU campus of UJ, holds a different view. “Every merger or transformation has its own complications. I think it’s too early to call this process a failure,” she says.
Such divergent views of students at former black and white campuses in merged entities aren’t unique to UJ. Last month a ministerial task team investigation into the affairs of North West University found students at the university’s Mafikeng campus – a historically black institution that was combined with the university’s Vaal and Potchefstroom campuses – were unhappy about a merger they perceived as “unequal”.
All of which questions the viability of the restructuring strategy. While the experiences of other institutions may be different – depending on the size and fit of the mergers – the concerns of students are similar.
Take Verusha Sitaram, a Wits Business School student and SRC member responsible for projects and campaigns, as an example. She says the mergers have only served to erode the value of degrees issued by former exclusive universities.
Says Sitaram: “Government should have fixed the former technikons and brought them up to standards befitting a modern university. My view is that an internationally recognised academic institution such as Wits has to maintain its reputation and degree status. I don’t support any merger that would lessen the value of any degree issued by Wits Business School.”
Although stressing the need for transformation in SA’s education sector it came as no surprise that Chris Ryall, University of Cape Town’s SRC president, strongly opposed the merging exercise. “It would never work for UCT, simply because there are no institutions close enough to match UCT’s academic goals, values and objectives.”
Ryall, off course, has no reason to roil the restructured system. UCT was one of a handful of elite institutions left untouched by the exercise.
No quick fix. Tebogo Makola