Fort Hare

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University of Fort Hare students call to #SaveUFHAcademicYear

While students at universities across the country complete their first semester online, UFH students have taken to social media to express their concerns over struggles to complete their academic year.

Fort Hare

Image supplied

While students at some universities across the country complete their mid-year examinations, students at the University of Fort Hare have taken to social media in a call to #SaveUFHAcademicYear. Students say they have been left behind and fear they will not be able to complete the year successfully.

Timeline of closure at the University of Fort Hare

On March 17, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Dr Blade Nzimande announced that all universities would close for an early recess. Due to earlier protests over financial exclusions, students at UFH had only attended two weeks of classes before they were asked to evacuate the university.

On April 7, the University of Fort Hare announced it would remain closed and make learning materials available online, placing a moratorium on assessments. However, many students have not been able to access these materials due to a lack of data or access to devices. Recognising these challenges, the university embarked on a project to provide data and 12,000 laptops to students to facilitate online learning.

Two months later, some students say they have not received their data and are unable to participate in the online learning programme. In a statement on June 30, the university said the first batch of laptops would be delivered at the end of July, leaving many students without devices despite the revised academic year beginning on 1 July.

The first group of students permitted to return to the university as part of the government’s prescribed phased reopening say they have not received permits or information on when they will be allowed to return. The university announced a risk assessment is currently taking place, with no specific dates given as to when the first 33% of students will be issued their permits and allowed back on campus.

Lack of communication

The chief complaint from students surrounds communication. Although the university and students are navigating unknown territory, students say requests for assistance or clarification on the way forward have been futile.

Some say UFH management is making promises to help students that are continuously postponed or not fulfilled at all. One said they would feel more comfortable about the future of the academic year if regular updates were provided, as they complain updates are vague or recycled.

The desperate calls of students stem from a fear that they will not be able to complete their studies this year. While students at other universities across the country have completed their first semester online, the first half of the year for the University of Fort Hare students has been lost.

The UFH management said they are aware “this is a time of great anxiety, for our students, as well as for our staff” and ensured an update on the reopening will be issued next week on completion of the risk assessment.