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16/10/2016

Dear parents and care-givers

After four weeks of disruptions, intensive engagements with key stakeholders and a court-ordered mediation process to end the shutdown, I am pleased to share that operations will resume at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) tomorrow and classes on Tuesday.

We know the shutdown has had a massive impact on our staff, students and their families.

Our students are demotivated, angry and frustrated; and you, as parents and care-givers, were understandably frustrated by a lack of clarity and clear-cut answers. This was further compounded by financial worries and the anxieties you have for your children’s future and welfare.

These concerns were ours too, making it imperative to resolve the impasse with the various student formations and return to the class in order to complete the 2016 academic year.

Agreements reached

Very briefly, there were two outstanding issues that led to the deadlock, namely:

  • The national call for free, quality, decolonised education; and
  • The clearance of all debt for students who qualified for debt and down-payment relief in 2016

NMMU acknowledges that the campaign for free higher education for all is a noble cause, but that it is beyond the authority of any individual university. We have agreed to deploy resources to engage in research and conduct dialogues that will hopefully inform the national roadmap towards the realisation of free higher education for all.

Until then, NMMU remains resolute in its call for free higher education for the poor and financial support for the so-called “missing middle”.

The University has also committed to debt resolution within the next four months for those students who qualified for debt and down-payment relief in 2016.

Peaceful resumption of NMMU operations and academic activities

Throughout the recent national protests, NMMU has sought to avoid the use of force that has seen an escalation of violence throughout the higher education sector in South Africa. The University appreciates that staff and students may be anxious about their safety as they have witnessed what has happened elsewhere.

Through a national directive by government, the South African Police Service (SAPS) were ordered to be present at all university campuses. NMMU is no exception to this decision.

Furthermore, in response to legal action by a group of parents seeking to compel NMMU to re-open, the University agreed to a court-mediated process. However, this has failed for reasons beyond the control of NMMU.

After careful consideration of the remaining options, and in order to resolve the situation, Management decided to seek an interdict. By means of this interdict, as wellas the agreements reached with the various student formations during the shutdown, NMMU is still seeking a peaceful resumption of the unfinished 2016 academic year.

Given that the issues within NMMU’s control have been resolved, there is no lawful reason why this cannot happen. We therefore appeal to all to conduct themselves in a way that ensures a peaceful resumption of the academic programme.

Recovery plans

While NMMU remained shut, staff worked tirelessly to develop student-friendly academic and operational recovery plans to ensure the year is completed.

These plans cover the academic programme, accommodation support and other operational logistics.

  • Academic recovery plan

The adapted academic calendar assumes that with classes starting on Tuesday 18 October, that lectures will continue for about four weeks, followed by three days of study leave and about three weeks of examinations.

Overarching plans have been drafted, along with more detailed faculty-based plans which are sensitive to the fact that our students have lost momentum in their studies. NMMU has student counselling, wellness and other interventions in place to help students through this transitionary period. 

  • Accommodation recovery plan   

Most student accommodation leases expire at the end of November. While recovery plans are already being made for those students living on-campus and those living in accredited accommodation off-campus, the support for students living off-campus in non-accredited establishmentsis more challenging. We have initiated a process to gather the contact details of these students in Port Elizabeth and George so that we have a data base of those who may require support. We advise you to go to the dedicated website http://fmf.nmmu.ac.zato input your details as soon as possible.

This plan, as with all others, will be shared more fully as we move forward.

  • Travel/transport arrangements

As the academic year will stretch into December, we advise you not to make any further travel and transport arrangements until the new exam timetable is shared. If you made arrangements prior to the shutdown on 20 September, please try to postpone them. If this is not possible, then processes will be put in place for you to motivate why you could notchange your plans. Such students, after due consideration, will be given the opportunity of writing special exams next year.

Appeal for support

This has been a hugely trying time for all involved. We apologise once again for the hardship and heartache that the uncertainty relating to the shutdown has caused, and thank you for your understanding.

In the interests of all involved, we appeal to you to proactively encourage your children to persevere and peacefully resume and complete the 2016 academic year.

Please feel free to forward your concerns and queries to mcr@nmmu.ac.za so that we can assist further.

Acting Vice-Chancellor: Dr Sibongile Muthwa  

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057
debbie.derry@mandela.ac.za