UKZN Medical School shutdown over clinic training continues

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The shutdown of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Medical School has entered its second week, the student leadership says it will continue to protest until its demands are met.

Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine SRC president Nkosinathi Ndebele is quoted in The Mercury as saying: “It is particularly disturbing how UKZN is systematically preventing anyone from speaking out against them.” Two students were arrested after a protest last week, which police said was in terms of the Gatherings Act. Ndebele said the third and fifth-year medical students were among a group which “clashed” with police who used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them while they were picketing outside the school.

“We picketed inside campus on Monday. We were locked out from Tuesday so we gathered outside the gates, but on Thursday police were called in. There was no interdict or a letter. The only communication was that MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) students were not allowed on campus. No reasons were given,” said Ndebele.

According to the report, UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo said demonstrations on campus had not been approved and would not be permitted. “Students that participate in unlawful protest and activities in public spaces must be aware that SAPS will take the necessary measures to retain public order, and to ensure the safety of the public.”

Ndebele said discussions had deadlocked as student leadership believed the university was not willing to address concerns. Among the students’ grievances is the Decentralised Clinical Training Programme. For certain modules, students were placed at health facilities around Durban. The programme seeks to expand these sites to other facilities which Ndebele previously said were rural, ill-equipped and without staff willing to teach them.

However, deputy vice-chancellor and head of the college of health sciences Professor Rob Slotow said there was a strict process. This included signing off on academic integrity and quality assurance before a site can be proposed to the Health Professions Council of SA for accreditation.

Regarding the demand for the KPMG forensic report on the fraudulent sale of spaces to under qualifying students to be released, Ndebele said in the report that management had referred them to the council.

Last month, three people were arrested for allegedly charging up to R500 000 for places to study medicine at the school. Last week, the university said it had taken decisive action on irregular admissions of students by serving letters of intention to suspend 18 members of staff, one of whom has already been dismissed. A search-and-seizure operation involving 286 staff members was also conducted.

Ndebele said it would put questions to council at a meeting as the whole debacle compromised the integrity of the qualifications at the school. Until these issues were resolved, the school would remain closed, Ndebele said.

The Mercury report

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