Students at Walter Sisulu University in Butterworth have shut the Ibika campus following the withdrawal of accreditation for the civil engineering degree and student leaders are busy negotiating with management on this and other issues.
Walter Sisulu University’s Ibika Campus in Butterworth has been shutdown since Thursday, 8 March last week following a student protest against the failure by the university management to improve the quality of its civil engineering qualification. The Engineering Council of South Africa has withdrawn its accreditation of civil engineering degrees granted by WSU. According to the students, there had been ample time to rectify the situation but that the university management chose not to.
“Engineering Council South Africa (ECSA) arrived in WSU in 2015 and outlined the shortage of lecturers who are suitably qualified and are employed permanently by the institution. They also raised concerns about the learning equipment (Software) and also questioned the learner Guides and Common Tests that the department carries out,” reads the memorandum by the students.
The students claim that the issues have remained unresolved since the ECSA’s visit. “Students were promised that these issues will be resolved before this year arrives. Because of ultra-ignorance and negligence of both the HOD and the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, nothing was done,” argues the memorandum by the students.
Speaking to Elitsha, SRC Academic and Student Services Officer, Bandile Tevez Mdlangaso said that students of Butterworth Campus concluded that the HOD and the Dean of Faculty do not care for the interests of African students from poor backgrounds who will be negatively affected by the situation.
“The Dean had been part-timing in office. As such, everything is foreign to him. We want him gone with his nefarious intentions. We reached an ultimatum that the incompetent officials that cost us Civil Engineering be dismissed from the positions they are currently holding. The Civil Engineer HOD, Mr Singatha must just be a mere lecturer as he fails to be an operational manager. The dean must be fired! We don’t want him anywhere in this institution; he is a racist that cares less for African students than for his salary. Thirdly, we demand that the representative of the civil engineering saga to the TPAC appeals meeting be Mechanical Engineer HOD Mr. Mkoko. Everything that was left hanging in the Department of Civil Engineering must be resolved: we want 3 lecturers to be employed as a matter of urgency; a proper learning environment that is at the standard of ECSA and a new Head of Department,” he said.
Mdlangaso says the issue of residence is another big problem. “Students are still confronted with dirty bathrooms and blockages; their doors are a mess since last year; windows are still to be fixed. Sewage blockages are a daily thing because of bad infrastructure. Our school must build more residences for students. Private residences are very expensive for their conditions and the accreditation of these private accommodations is a problem. Students are victims of gangsterism due to the shady roads they have to walk. We also want WiFi in our residence,” he said.
Students are also demanding that the contracted security company be fired because they get robbed in front of the security officers. They also want the university management to stop outsourcing general workers’ vacancies.
A meeting by students resolved to shut the campus down until the university management resolves all the issues stipulated, as a matter of urgency.
A student who wanted to remain anonymous told Elitsha that on Thursday last week, they received SMS’s from school management instructing them to leave the premises immediately. “While we were still busy packing our bags, police arrived and told us to leave. There are students who come from very far places like Ntabankulu, Mount Fletcher etc. Those students are sleeping in the local halls,” he said.
WSU spokesperson, Yonela Tukwayo says the shutdown by the students is still underway. “But the management of the school together with student leadership are busy discussing this matter. We took students out of the premises of the varsity to avoid damage of the property. When there is a protest, students damage the property. So the school has to fix the damages caused by students if there is that kind of thing,” she said.
Tukwayo emphasised the fact that they never heard about the issue of Mr Mkoko and Mr Singatha. “I cannot comment on it because it has not come to the attention of management. There is no formal report from students with regard to this matter,’’ she said.