A look at the highs and lows of our educational institutions
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