Student Organisation Rejects Minister's Plans
South African Union of Students (SAUS) responded to Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande’s plans to save the 2020 academic year as they declared ‘SAUS Rejects Two-Tier.They believe that the strategies in place does not cater for all students.
Student organisation, South African Union of Students, has rejected the strategies Blade Nzimande, Minister of Education, has put forth for the 2020 academic year. The Department of Higher Education sets out to complete the 2020 academic year, even if that means having it run over into 2021. However, SAUS believes that their ways proposed to do so are not in line with providing for all students.
Minister Nzimande has uttered, “no student left behind’ and has announced that Universities will be providing students with data and devices if they need them. SAUS believes that the Minister and the Department are not staying true to what this actually means.
SAUS has said, “the ministers briefing completely neglects to address plans and measures for students who fall within the peripheral groups: Missing-middle category of students; Students with different abilities, Students with mental illness, Students in unconducive learning environments, Postgraduate students, Students in courses with critical practical components, Final year students whose final performance will determine their articulation and social mobility, International students et al.”
There are two sides to ‘no student left behind’ being displayed here. One is that of the Department of Higher Education where the view is that they will deal with issues as they come while continuing the academic programme online. The other is that of SAUS who is saying that all issues should first be dealt with and only then should online leaning take place.
Some of the questions SAUS are whether academic staff have been trained enough to deliver good teaching practices. Another concern is that because the contact academic programme was moved to an online programme, will this not affect the quality of learning and teaching? How does it measure up?
The ways in which the Department is dealing with the pandemic are not supported by SAUS as they believe that fear and worry should not be what’s guiding the Department’s decisions. In doing so, it “aims to leave behind hundred of students across the country”.
In criticising Nzimande’s speech, SAUS states, “the Department and these very institutions are choosing to be completely blind to the reality that students at mainly historically Black universities- with a student population from the poorest demographics across the country- do not have this privilege and therefore cannot participate in this online/remote learning process.”
SAUS believes that these plans that were put in place leaves Bantu Universities to struggle due to limited resources and finances, along with students that come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Of the 26 Universities, four have said they need assistance with resources and technical support and ten other institutions have said that they are not capable of using online learning and teaching methods.
In order to fix what SAUS believes the Department has neglected, they propose that there is a decrease in fees allowing missing middle students to have more money for other resources, for the Department to build a suitable online curriculum as well as for there to be no academic exclusion for the 2022 academic year. They are also of the opinion that the Department should move the dates of recesses around to make time for effective planning and to calculate the true effects online teaching will have on students from all backgrounds.
The student organisation has plainly stated, “we are finding it hard as a union to comprehend why the Department would insist on a solution that will leave majority of the institutions and majority of students behind. We reject any solution that seeks to introduce a two-tier education system including one for the rich (online) and one for the poor (post office or whatever.)”
Covid-19 has changed the lives of everyone across the globe. Institutions of higher learning had to take major decisions to overcome some of their difficulties.
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