SCU farce: Cabinet’s collective failure
Even after their 937- word statement, Cabinet’s failure to properly manage the situation at the Swaziland Medical Christian University is glaring. The SCU was closed without warning, and perhaps justification, throwing everything into disarray.
Months later, and with tampers fraying and a minister’s house burnt allegedly by angry students who are affected by the immediate and indefinite closure of the university, Cabinet finally found its collective voice, issuing a statement that sought to clarify the decision behind the closure.
However, the statement adds more confusion if not making this look like such a farce. Through the minister of education, Cabinet now appears to suggest that the major decision behind the closure of the university was the quality of lecturers and administration of the academic regulations. The minister has now revealed that students were allowed entry when they did not qualify, their marks were rounded off upwards when they were poor, surmising that there needed to be intervention to correct these issues.
However, this still looks like a cover-up more than it is an attempt to ensure there is quality lecturing at the university, or trying to address the academic administration. The statement says nothing about how this needed to disrupt the academic calendar and destroy the futures of these students—many of who were preparing to write their exams.
The statement cannot disguise the fact that this decision to close the university was as unnecessary as it was politically motivated, and not thought-through. It was catastrophic, and suicidal. Notwithstanding the findings by the Swaziland Higher Education Council (SHEC) there is nothing that suggests that the findings could not have been addressed while not disrupting operations and causing so much confusion and anger among the students.
It is worse when we consider that there was a ministerial sub-committee as well as a task team involved in this assessment, and that both these committees would have felt the necessary evil was to close the university.
At the very least, the decision here would have been to review the situation while allowing the programme to go ahead—having addressed the glaring issues of academic administration. This would have also allowed for the smooth transition of the entrants for the next academic calendar.
But, Cabinet and the SHEC rushed to pull the trigger, which has led to so much anger and emotion from the students. It is worth noting two comments from two ministers on the events of the past two weeks concerning this university; the education minister accepted that education was in a crisis. This is admission of guilt, and with the handling of this university, it is acceptance that he has failed in his portfolio. The second is that the minister for ICT was quoted as having distanced himself from this mess, after his house was burnt—allegedly by students of the university. He apparently questioned how he is to blame for the closure of the university. This is clear departure from the mantra of collective responsibility or the admission that Phineas Magagula, his counterpart, is to blame for everything.