Trainee nurses at Port Elizabeth’s Lilitha campus spent three weeks locked out of the college protesting against a new protocol that required them to wear their uniforms when attending lectures.
The nurses, who are based at Lilitha’s sub-campus at Dora Nginza hospital, felt that the college was overstepping its mandate as this was not part of the agreement they had signed when they enrolled for their nursing programme.
The disgruntled students were only allowed to attend classes on July 21 following the intervention of opposition political parties who lambasted the college for blatant breach of the original agreement.
The students claim that it started with a letter written in early July by the college principal, Nosintu Limba, instructing students to attend classes dressed in their nursing attire.
Students protested against the college and within a week, the situation escalated.
“After we defied her, we were then physically removed out of the classes on July 13. She locked the college gates and ordered everybody out. Limba said this was the new administrative order she got from her spurious,” said one student who did not want to be identified.
Khaya Sodidi, Acting Provincial Secretary of DENOSA said that they were not aware that student nurses had to wear uniforms.
“Where did the college get this policy from? Mrs Limba even failed to produce a written document to prove this,” said Sodidi. He said trainee nurses were only required to wear their uniforms when performing clinical duties in hospitals and when carrying out community duties.
He referred to Clause 20 of Lilitha College of Nursing in Association with the Consortium of Universities.
The Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (PAWUSA) said the college should have considered the plight of the students before embarking on the lock-out.
The labour union said most students could not afford these uniforms as they came from poor families.
Winky Mngqibisa, of PAWUSA, said “the students do not earn enough to afford uniforms. They do not have allowances for uniforms and they need to preserve those uniforms when they go to work. We are not saying that they can not wear their uniforms, but the way Mrs Limba conducted herself leaves a lot to be desired.”
Students get a stipend of R2,000 a year. Uniforms cost around R600.