UKZN students protest medical school corruption and training policies

Armed security protect a building at the University of KwaZulu-Natal during an August 2017 protest.

On Monday, nearly one hundred students embarked on a peaceful picket at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, shutting down classes.

The protest, which started on Friday, was prompted by numerous issues including the KPMG report forensic report into fraud and corruption allegations in the institution, and the university’s decentralisation programme.

A student, Apfao Rananga, said that the students are angry over a number of ongoing issues.

“We are angry about the report that the management is not giving to us because we want to know what was going on and who are the people responsible. We feel as though we won’t even get to know who bribed their way here, which is unfair on some of us because we worked hard to be here,” she said.

In May this year, the Hawks busted a syndicate that sold medicine and other health science places at the institution for up to R500 000, to students who did not meet the minimum requirements for the courses.

A student who asked to remain anonymous said that students were also not happy about the university’s decentralised clinical training programme as they felt it placed their future in jeopardy. The programme places medical students in hospitals and clinics in rural areas, where more health professionals are needed, instead of in the city. Students feel they do not receive proper training at these hospitals.

“We don’t want decentralisation because it’s not working; there aren’t enough resources for all of us. Also, we can’t just move to these different areas where we aren’t even sure if there are enough people who are capable of training us,” she said.

She added that the future of senior students is currently vague because of the programme.

Addressing students, the MSRC president, Nkosinathi Ndebele said that they are disappointed with the way the management is handling the whole matter.

“Management is stubborn; we told them that we are angry. The mandate of the students is clear and we won’t compromise it. We have given them an opportunity to go and caucus and if they come back with unfavourable answers, we will continue striking,” he said.

In a statement, UKZN management confirmed that it had met with students on Monday and that it would continue to engage with students “until a sustainable and viable solution is found.”

After meeting with management, the SRC told students that they are not willing to negotiate. Protests continued on Tuesday.