Dental Students At Wits Protest “Unhealthy Learning Environment”

Dental students from the University of Witwatersrand protested on Tuesday on campus with a number of complaints. Students say they are tired of the poor working conditions and treatment by the university. They handed over a memorandum to members of the management. The Daily Vox team rounds up.

Update: The University of Witwatersrand Dean of Students, Jerome September has responded saying: “We acknowledge the receipt of a memorandum in the School of Oral Health Sciences. The University will consider the contents of the memorandum ad respond within the time frames as agreed with the students,”

In a memorandum seen by The Daily Vox, the students outline their short, medium and long term demands. The memorandum was drafted by the Dental Students Council who met with the student body.

“Students are placed in an unhealthy learning environment which takes a toll on the mental state of the students. This hampers the academic process, leading to substandard work and potential failure. This is unacceptable. For too long our concerns have not been dealt with and therefore we as a student body have decided to take a stand,” the memorandum says.

Students have raised concerns of an apparent accreditation issue for the school. In the memorandum, students say they want an official statement from the university regarding the situation. They also want clarification of a contingency plans in the event the school is shut down.

A student from Wits Dental School who wished to be unnamed told The Daily Vox in an interview that: “The students are tired.”

The students says they have many issues of victimisation when students complains about a person regarding their marks or clinical assessments, the supervisors react in a bad manner.

One supervisor is reported to have said to a student: “Let me not say this as you might end up committing suicide.” This was after a student died of suicide a few weeks ago.

The student says despite paying high fees to the university, the dental school is in a bad condition infrastructurally.

“The other issues is that the lecturer is bullying students. There is a whole story of favouritism where certain students will be deliberately failed while others will be passed on the basis on colour,” the student said.

Additionally, students are calling for a qualified psychologist who is based in dental school. They say they are under immense stress and pressure. As they do not have the time to make appointment for a off-campus councillor an in-house councillor should be made available.

The medium term demands include the high acceptance rate as students says there is not enough space to accommodate an excess of new students. Students are calling for greater transparency in the clinical assessment criteria. Other issues include shortage of materials,a supervisor evaluation system, improvement of infrastructure and facilities and a recreational area

The long term demands outlined in the memorandum includes the development of a student rights charter specifically for Oral Health Science Students and more bursaries and scholarships should be awarded to students. Students also say that campus health documentation should be sufficient to warrant missing a clinical/lab session as not all students have medical aid and campus health is the only affordable option to them.

The memorandum calls on the university to update them with their short term demands in the next two weeks and for the medium and long term demands to be drafted and implemented by the 2019 academic year.

“If our demands are not met, we will be forced to take further action. We hope that this will not be the case and that we can work together to remedy the situation we find ourselves in, with a sense of hope that there will be positive change in years to come. This is our plead for help and we await your response,”

The memorandum was accepted by the acting Head of School and Dean of the School. The student said the management said they will reply to students by October 12.

This latest protest forms part of the ongoing unemployed doctors issue that has been plaguing the public health system.

The university was contacted for comment. The story will be updated once it has been received.