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‘We are being failed deliberately’

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Ntando Thukwana
September01/ 2017

Students at the faculty of health sciences are dissatisfied with assessment processes at their school. 

WITS MEDICAL school students are calling for the suspension of the director of the Unit for Undergraduate Medical Education (UUME), Professor Scarpa Schoeman. This follows allegations of irregularities in assessment processes at the school.

The students are further demanding the scrapping of the current assessment method, and the release of a full preliminary report of the findings of an inquiry that was set up to resolve the students’ concerns.

Wits Vuvuzela reported on July 28 that on July 10, a group of students had made a PowerPoint presentation to a Graduate Entry Medical Programme (GEMP) 1 and 2 class, where they detailed concerns about what they saw as unfair changes to course assessments for units that they had to pass in order to proceed.

The document listed eight concerns in relation to the unit, and was submitted to the Head of School, Professor Tobias Chirwa.

Following the students’ complaints, Assistant Dean: Teaching, Learning and Undergraduate Affairs, Professor Lionel Green-Thompson, set up a preliminary commission of inquiry to investigate the complaints raised by students. The commission sat on July 18.

WE NEED TRANSPARENCY: Wits medical school students call for changes in their assessment methods.
Photo: Tebadi Mmotla

In a letter to students dated July 31, the dean of the faculty of health sciences, Professor Martin Veller, wrote that the commission of inquiry  “found that the concerned students’ complaints have prima facie validity. They also highlighted that the trust in the relationship between the concerned students and UUME staff had broken down”.

Prof Veller also committed the faculty to “a speedy resolution to this matter”. However, students say the process has been anything but speedy.

Third-year MBBCh student, *Seanego Malebane said that “They set up a committee which actually acknowledged that we were right as students and they are trying to resolve the matter but they are too slow. We are still being assessed under the same system even though it’s under investigation.”

Another third-year MBBCh student, *Robert Mtshali, said that he was concerned that Prof Schoeman was still directly involved with students while he was being investigated. “Schoeman is under investigation why is he still continuing with his job?”

Prof Green-Thompson told Wits Vuvuzela that Schoeman was not being “personally” investigated. “The unit is under investigation for the process of assessment. The first committee did not recommend his suspension,” he said.

*Peter Goqani a fourth year MBBCh student said, “How come we have an assessment protocol that is under investigation and yet we’re proceeding with it? We wrote an exam three weeks ago under a system that is said to be under inquiry,” he added.

The students have also claimed that they had been coerced to sign the 2017 handbook of assessment rules with the threat that they would not be able to view their marks otherwise.

When asked whether students had been coerced to sign handbooks, Green-Thompson said “I don’t really want to comment on that because that’s something that the commission will be looking at. I don’t want to answer that specifically.”

He continued: “There has not been a finding that it (assessment process) is inadequate. We are working under the premise that it is the decided assessment process by the department from the beginning of the year. Students have to be assessed and those assessments are to be managed.”

*Malebane told Wits Vuvuzela that, “People were cheated their marks. People were failed unfairly. When we went to the school to complain about this thing, director of UUME actually said that there were some systematic errors but they (students) already failed, they are already repeating the year, and they are still using the same system to assess us right now.”

Green-Thompson’s response was that, “That revolves around one error that happened. And yes it did happen in the week before this process started on the week of July 10. This error was a completely random event. It wasn’t a systematic error that’s happening.”

Green-Thompson added that they had given the commission the handbook, students’ compiled complaints, the recommendations from the school’s transformation committee as well as a series of documents that they (commission) had to look at. He wouldn’t say when the commission was expected to make final recommendations.

*Not their real names

RELATED ARTICLES:

Wits VuvuzelaMedical students flag ‘unfair’assessments, July 28, 2017.

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Ntando Thukwana