AS Wits starts the second semester, a number of excluded students are accusing the university of not being clear on a number of issues surrounding exclusions.
A second year BSc Geology student, who asked not to be named, did not turn up for an exam last year after she discovered, the day before, that her parents were getting divorced. She said she told her course co-ordinator about her situation and that she would not be able to sit for the exam. Then she got excluded.
“I appealed and they accepted my appeal but I was given conditions to pass everything by June.”
In her effort to pass the subject she failed last year, she ended up not paying sufficient attention to her second year courses, which meant she failed another course in the first block. She has now been asked to write a motivation letter explaining why she failed that course.
“Now I’m not even sure where I stand. I just go to class but don’t even know if I have been excluded again or not. I know people that failed the same course as me but didn’t get excluded so I’m not even sure how the system works.
“Maybe I should have put my second year course on hold and concentrated on the first year courses, but I wasn’t sure what to do. No-one tells you things like that at registration,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears.
“You know, the same way they are clear about the fees breakdown is the same way they should be clear about issues surrounding exclusions.”
A second year BA geography student, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she was also excluded after failing some of her first year courses. She then went on to fail two of those courses again.
“I got an email telling me I should come to the faculty. However when I got excluded last year I was not given any conditions so I wasn’t sure of what was expected of me.
“The pressure of studying for first and second year courses is too much, I even got a black-out because of lack of sufficient sleep.”
But SRC officer for Education and Academics Kabelo Ramathesele said that, while exclusions are a painful reality, there was hope. Students need not get too distressed since the university had structures to cater for their needs.
She encouraged excluded students to go to the Counselling and Careers Development Unit for emotional support on how to deal with the trauma of being excluded, as well as to the SRC.
“Above all, students need to have a good relationship with their lecturers and talk to them when they are struggling. If they choose to keep quiet, it will come out at the end of the year when they get excluded.”
Of the students that were excluded last year, 69.7% managed to come back. Ramathesele said there were inconsistencies in the way the university handled exclusions because some students still got turned away even if they came back within the one-year limit stipulated by the university.
“Students should go and do courses that they can be credited for while they are at home, or go and get attached somewhere and get some experience.”
Efforts to get a comment from the registrar’s office were unsuccessful.