Chalk and Cheese

Stu­dents say no to merg­ers

Finweek English Edition - - Cover - CHIMWEMWE MWANZA chimwemwem@fin­

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

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