A look at the highs and lows of our ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions

Weekend Witness - - News - KERUSHUN PIL­LAY

A JACARANDA tree set on fire. A lec­turer at­tacked with a hosepipe. A school that al­legedly turns into a she­been at night.

Pi­eter­mar­itzburg uni­ver­si­ties and schools saw a range of con­tro­ver­sies this year, from at­tacks on staff at the Uni­ver­sity of KwaZulu-Na­tal, to an in­ci­dent of al­leged racism at Mar­itzburg Col­lege.

There were also tragedies at schools this year, with a drown­ing at Moun­tain Rise pri­mary school, and trib­utes for a for­mer top ma­tric­u­lant who died in a car ac­ci­dent.

Week­end Wit­ness to­day also re­ports on al­leged cor­rup­tion at the Dur­ban Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (DUT), which has sus­pended a raft of em­ploy­ees amid claims of ne­far­i­ous be­hav­iour.

Uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try this year ex­pe­ri­enced se­ri­ous ad­mis­sion prob­lems with in­sti­tu­tions get­ting thou­sands of ap­pli­ca­tions more than they could ac­com­mo­date.

This was due to for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma an­nounc­ing free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion for poor stu­dents.

UKZN had re­ceived 91 002 ap­pli­ca­tions for the 8 776 spa­ces avail­able in the first-year un­der­grad­u­ate aca­demic pro­grammes. Sim­i­larly, the Dur­ban Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy said it had re­ceived 92 464 ap­pli­ca­tions for first-year study in 2018, but only had 7 500 spa­ces for its 2018 first-year in­take. UKZN The Wit­ness this year ex­posed how lec­tur­ers at UKZN were fall­ing vic­tim to at­tacks and ver­bal abuse by stu­dents. In one case, a se­nior Stu­dent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil (SRC) mem­ber was al­legedly in­volved.

In July, it was re­ported that at least three lec­tur­ers were at­tacked by stu­dents, and, in one case, there was a for­mal charge sheet sub­mit­ted to the uni­ver­sity’s Risk Man­age­ment Ser­vices (RMS). The at­tacks hap­pened when lec­tur­ers im­posed sanc­tions on stu­dents for trans­gres­sions. This in­cluded when stu­dents failed to meet their duly per­formed (DP) re­quire­ments, or when they failed tests or as­sign­ments.

It would also later be re­ported that a lec­turer was at­tacked with a hosepipe at UKZN’s Westville cam­pus dur­ing a stu­dent protest.

Com­pound­ing the prob­lem was that aca­demic staff were at log­ger­heads with man­age­ment. In Fe­bru­ary, it was re­ported that a newly-in­tro­duced “un­re­al­is­tic” key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tor sys­tem led a The dam­age af­ter pro­test­ers at UKZN’s Pi­eter­mar­itzburg cam­pus threw a brick through a se­cu­rity ve­hi­cle’s win­dow.

Stu­dents grap­ple with po­lice and se­cu­rity staff at UKZN’s Pi­eter­mar­itzburg cam­pus dur­ing a protest this year. The stump where a mighty jacaranda once stood on UKZN’s Pi­eter­mar­itzburg cam­pus. It had to be chopped down af­ter be­ing set alight dur­ing a protest. RIGHT: Stu­dents at­tempt to dis­rupt an exam at UKZN’s Pi­eter­mar­itzburg cam­pus dur­ing a protest. por­tion of staff to work on a go-slow to protest it. • In Novem­ber, The Wit­ness re­ported that UKZN had racked up a bill of some R77 mil­lion — with a fore­cast of more than R150 mil­lion for its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged cor­rup­tion at the med­i­cal school. There ap­pears to be no end in sight for this in­ves­ti­ga­tion. • In July, stu­dents at the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg cam­pus em­barked on a protest in light of a stu­dent be­ing raped by a peer. Dur­ing the protest, stu­dents shat­tered the glass on a lec­ture room door, in­ter­rupted an exam for qual­i­fied con­veyancers, sent bricks through se­cu­rity van win­dows, and lit a jacaranda tree on fire. The tree was then chopped down.

It was later re­ported that the vic­tim was strug­gling to deal with the in­ci­dent, and had con­tem­plated sui­cide. • In May, UKZN’s Pi­eter­mar­itzburg cam­pus hosted sev­eral cabi­net min­is­ters for the launch of the bi­og­ra­phy of strug­gle icon Chota Mo­tala. The book was writ­ten by mem­ber of UKZN’s his­tory depart­ment, Pro­fes­sor Goolam Va­hed. • UKZN’s Pi­eter­mar­itzburg cam­pus was in Novem­ber buoyed by the launch of a new state-of-the-art chem­istry build­ing for post­grad­u­ate stu­dents. DUT Ad­min­is­tra­tive staff at DUT were sus­pended amid al­le­ga­tions that they were ex­ploit­ing an in­sur­ance pol­icy at the uni­ver­sity by cre­at­ing and killing off ghost spouses to claim pay­outs.

In­sid­ers said more than 70 staff were sus­pended for tak­ing part in the scheme which ex­ploited an in­sur­ance pol­icy that pays out the spouse of a dead em­ployee their year’s salary. The scheme will also pay the em­ployee if their spouse, who did not work for DUT, died.

It was re­vealed in the same re­port that the uni­ver­sity’s vice chan­cel­lor, Pro­fes­sor Thandwa Mthembu, was be­ing es­corted around by body­guards be­cause of on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions into sev­eral in­ci­dents of cor­rup­tion at DUT.

It was ear­lier re­ported that DUT sus­pended five se­nior man­agers in the wake of a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion where a se­cu­rity com­pany in­voiced the uni­ver­sity for nearly R7 mil­lion for work done dur­ing a stu­dent protest. LO­CAL SCHOOLS • The Carter High com­mu­nity was in Oc­to­ber rocked by the news that one of its top ma­tric­u­lants in 2017, Kiara Singh (19), had died in a car ac­ci­dent.

Singh was study­ing me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing at UKZN. She was fea­tured in The Wit­ness in Jan­uary for scor­ing seven dis­tinc­tions in ma­tric.

She was de­scribed as a gifted young­ster who had am­bi­tions of em­pow­er­ing women and youth. • A Wood­lands Site 11 fam­ily re­ceived the dev­as­tat­ing news that their 13-yearold son had drowned at Moun­tain Rise Pri­mary School.

The fam­ily of Ntan­doyenkosi Mabaso, who was in Grade 6, were cry­ing foul over what they saw as con­flict­ing sto­ries re­gard­ing the boy’s death.

They got three seem­ingly con­tra­dic­tory sto­ries from Ntan­doyenkosi’s peers, the school hi­er­ar­chy and the SGB.

In one story, they heard the teacher on duty had tried to fish him out of the wa­ter with a wooden plank. In an­other, they heard that an­other pupil was called to try to res­cue him.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is be­ing han­dled by the KZN Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion. • Events at North­lands Pri­mary caused a stir this year, where not only were staff fre­quently stay­ing away, but it was also used as a “she­been” on Fri­day nights.

In Septem­ber, The Wit­ness re­ported that as many as eight teach­ers would stay away from the North­dale school in a sin­gle day. It was al­leged that staff were suf­fer­ing low morale.

A week later it was re­vealed that a group of men had been us­ing the school’s staff room to drink at night. Video footage show­ing un­known men drink­ing al­co­hol at the school was leaked to The Wit­ness, amid claims that this was a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence.

The school’s SGB dis­missed the fre­quent ab­sen­teeism as “fake news”, and said it was un­aware of the staff room be­ing used as a drink­ing hole — but did note the school hosted so­cial events. • An­other in­ci­dent of al­leged racism hit Mar­itzburg Col­lege this year.

The school launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion amid al­le­ga­tions that a teacher told coloured pupil he was not se­lected to be a pre­fect for next year be­cause he was “not black enough or white enough”.

The in­ci­dent caused the pupil con­sid­er­able dis­tress, with a psy­chol­o­gist’s re­port con­clud­ing he was dis­play­ing signs of de­pres­sion. The school de­nied these claims, and said their pre­fect se­lec­tion pol­icy was based on a range of fac­tors, and also de­nied that the teacher had said that. The in­quiry is on­go­ing. • kerushun.pil­[email protected]­ness.co.za

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