As students aggrieved by the University of South Africa’s (Unisa) proposal of having one long semester started their protest action at the Sunnyside campus earlier today, the university has come out to clarify what it believed to be misinformation being peddled to the public.
According to university spokesperson Martin Ramotshela, the university wanted to address a number of issues regarding the commencement of the 2021 academic calendar and some of the student concerns being raised.
Ramotshela said changes made to the university calendar had not been decided upon unilaterally by the university management but were instead addressed through the relevant governance, consultative and decision-making structures within and outside the university.
He said the National Student Representative Council was not sidelined as to the need for the changes to be made as they were part of the consultative processes throughout.
Firstly Ramotshela said the decision to make certain changes to the academic calendar was necessary, not only to accommodate matriculants whose results would only be released on February 23, but to also cater for NSFAS students whose funding would only be released in April.
He said the decision was also aimed at aligning the academic calendar with the ministerial directive for all universities to commence their academic programmes in March this year instead.
Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande made the announcement about the delayed reopening of universities across the country on January 18.
“This is not a Unisa-specific challenge, nor a decision by Unisa management, but rather a sectoral matter arising out of the need to properly manage the teaching and learning space in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and the attendant national interventions in this regard.”
If anything Ramotshela said the decision to combine registrations was intended to recoup the time usually used for the second-semester registrations during July, and allow for the extension of the two semesters to provide extended teaching time in the light of the academic year starting only in March.
“Students who were expecting to complete their qualifications in the first semester will not be adversely affected by this decision.
“They will be identified and accommodated through relevant interventions at college level, including F1 concessions, to ensure that they’re able to complete their qualifications in the first semester.”
Meanwhile a handful of students leaders from various parties alleged that the Dean of student affairs was holding meetings with student leaders to take note of their concerns which they remained adamant about.
Some students threatened journalists present and demanded that pictures not be taken during their protest.