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15/10/2016

After four weeks of disruption, intensive engagements with key stakeholders and a court-ordered mediation process to end the shutdown, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) is pleased to announce the resumption of operations on Monday, 17 October 2016.

Agreements reached

During the shutdown, management has been meeting with various student formations in Port Elizabeth and George to ensure that the university-specific demands are addressed. There were two outstanding issues which led to the deadlock, namely:

  • The national call for free, quality, decolonised higher 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 it is a national policy issue beyond the authority of any individual university. While NMMU does not have the mandate to pronounce on this matter, it will 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. Once a consensus position based on research has been co-created with our key stakeholders, NMMU will lobby this with national government.

Until such time, the University remains resolute in its call for free higher education for the poor and financial support for the so-called “missing middle” students. We will continue to advocate for all sectors of society to invest more in higher education. This will ensure that universities can continue to provide quality teaching, research, and holistic support to all students.

NMMU is furthermore steadfast in its commitment to accelerating and deepening transformation.  In line with our values, every effort will be made to foster a transformative and enabling institutional culture.  We unequivocally condemn all acts of racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination that are contrary to our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The University is committed to debt resolution, within the available resources, for academically deserving poor and missing middle students who qualified for debt and down payment reliefat NMMU in 2016. Students and management have committed to a joint process to implement this within four months.

In light of the above, it is clear that all internal Fees Must Fall demands have been met and there is now no reason for protesting students to call for the continued shutdown of the University.

Peaceful resumption of University operations and academic activities

Throughout the recent student 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 at various other universities around the country. 

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

Furthermore, on 11 October 2016, in response to legal action brought by some parents seeking to compel the University to re-open, NMMU agreed to a court-mandated mediation process. Unfortunately, this process was inconclusive for reasons beyond the control of the University.

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

As indicated in the statement of the University Council released on 14 October 2016, there is no basis in our Constitution and law for the campus blockades preventing students and staff from exercising their legal rights to access the University. Students have a right to strive for any cause as long as this does not impair the equal rights of others to gain access to the University.

Given that the issues within NMMU’s control have been resolved, there is no lawful reason for the 2016 academic year not to resume. Students involved in the #FeesMustFall protests are therefore encouraged to return to class to resume their studies, while continuing to work towards the aspiration of free, decolonised, quality higher education.

NMMU remains convinced that the militarisation of its campuses and the use of force are to be avoided as far as possible. We therefore strongly appeal to all students, staff and parents to conduct themselves in a way that ensures the peaceful resumption of University operations and academic activities. 

Transitioning to resuming University activities

Due to the critical need to return to class in order to complete the academic year in 2016, the University will re-open on Monday, 17 October with the return of all staff so that the necessary preparations can be made to transition to the resumption of all academic activities on Tuesday, 18 October. 

Please be assured that, while the University has been shut down, staff have been working tirelessly to develop student-friendly academic recovery plans to ensure that the academic year can be completed in 2016.

Residence students who went home during the shutdown are encouraged to start returning to the campus as soon as possible. The regular timetable will be followed from Tuesday, 18 October when all students are expected to return to class.

Academic recovery plan

An adapted academic calendar has been approved in principle by the Executive Committee of Senate. The calendar assumes that, with classes starting on 18 October 2016, lectures will continue for about four weeks to complete the academic programme, followed by three study days before an examination period of about three weeks.

An overarching academic recovery plan has been drafted, along with more detailed faculty-based recovery plans, which are sensitive to the fact that students have lost momentum in their studies. In addition, Student Counselling will be running sessions for students who need to deal with feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, depression and anger, and so on to assist them with sense making and re-engaging with their studies.

Similar wellness interventions will be made available to staff. The University has briefed both unions regarding the return to operations, and will continue to improve its protocols and communication around staff issues.  This will include guidelines relating to managing the transition period.

Accommodation recovery plan

Since the examination timetable originally ended on 16 November, the University is working on a recovery plan to assist those students whose off-campus accommodation leases expire at the end of November, or even earlier.

In the interim, all students residing in off-campus accommodation are urged to input their details on the http://fmf.nmmu.ac.zawebsite to enable the University to properly plan for these contingencies.

Appeal for support

The shutdown has been a trying time for staff, students and their families. The frustration, anxiety and uncertainty of the past four weeks have impacted on all concerned.  In the interests of completing the academic year in 2016, we appeal for your proactive support to collectively ensure the peaceful resumption of academic activities.  This is in the best interests of the University community and the broader society.

Communication and Stakeholder Liaison     

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