After a thirty minute wait outside the auditorium – students elbowed their way into their seats, with some occupying vacant spaces along the walkway using their thighs as tables.

An estimated 380 International Relations students were crammed into the confined space of West Campus’ Science Stadium.

“We are down to 380 now … 60 of them haven’t registered because the NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) didn’t come through,” said head tutor and Masters student Patricia Muauka.

Muauka, who was handing out course packs to the first years with the help of first-year lecturer Christopher Williams, confirmed that overcrowded classrooms are an issue, describing the administrative duties as “easier to manage… after years of practice and experience.”

“We get over 300 people in here and some are sitting in the aisles and some are standing”.
SIDELINED: First year students sit on lecture halls at West Campus Science Stadium aisles where they use their thighs as desks. Photo: Palesa Tshandu

SIDELINED: First year students sit on lecture halls at West Campus Science Stadium aisles where they use their thighs as desks. Photo: Palesa Tshandu

Lecturer Christopher Williams laments on the sizeable classrooms as having “a lot of administrative duties”. Williams, who started working at the department last year, said: “In the United States. I taught much smaller courses and so it’s harder to teach because you cannot interact with students the same way”.

Dr David Hornsby senior lecturer in International Relations agrees that overcrowding has a huge impact on teaching saying “it can really affect whether or not the learning and interaction environment is a safe space.’’

He mentions the difficulty involved in engaging large classrooms with lecture material saying that “lecturers design their courses for a particular number of students” suggesting that if there is a dramatic increase in these numbers it can significantly affect the approaches to learning.

BA Law student Rachel Jambo says the case is not only in International Relations lectures, but similar cases can be found in Psychology and Sociology classes.  “We get over 300 people in here and some are sitting in the aisles and some are standing”.

Jambo described the overcrowding as “uncomfortable” referring to the lack of ventilation in Senate Houses’ SH6 and SH5 lecture rooms.

First-year student Simpiwe Maseko however does not seem to be affected by the large classrooms saying that interaction with lectures has not been affected by the large classrooms, but cannot be certain because “it’s still like the beginning”.

She is however confident lecturers are “paying attention to every student…going to great lengths to ensure that everybody is on the same page”.

Hornsby advises that the university’s enrolment and registration process needs to be directed by the size of venues. “We cannot register more people for a course than caps allow. As the university moves to an online registration system –this problem should be addressed.”

Muauka confirmed that there will be 18 tutorial groups but remains uncertain on the number of tutors available to tutor these classrooms “We are holding thumbs that we have enough tutors this year.”