SCU farce: Cabi­net’s col­lec­tive fail­ure

Sunday Observer - - FEATURES -

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.

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