ATC081017: Report: Oversight Visit to Vaal University of Technology
REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION ON IT’S OVERSIGHT VISIT TO THE VAAL UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY ON THE 18-19 MAY 2008:
The Portfolio Committee on Education mandated a multi-party delegation that conducted an oversight visit to the Vaal University of Technology on the 19 May 2008. During the visit, the Committee interacted with top management of the university, unions and the various student organisations.
The procedure in which the meetings were conducted was that, the various stakeholders were given an opportunity to express their opinions, and the delegation would comment and raise question that needed clarity. The programme of the visit was drafted in a manner that accommodated the different stakeholders an opportunity to express their opinions on the situation that prevailed at the University then.
The programme of the visit was drafted as follows:
§ Meeting with top management; (Presentation by the Vice-Chancellor Prof I Moutlana)
§ Meeting with the two unions, (National Education and Health Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) & National Union of Tertiary Educators of South Africa (Nutesa)
§ Meeting with the various Student Leadership of the University
§ Feedback to management
The delegation was led by the Chairperson of the Committee, Prof S Mayatula (ANC), accompanied by Mr B Mthembu (ANC), Mr R Ntuli(ANC), Mr R van den Heever (ANC), Mr G Boinamo (DA), Ms C Dudley (ACDP), and Mr I Mfundisi (UCDP). The members of the support staff were Mr Anele Kabingesi (Committee Secretary), Mr Andile Mphunga (Committee Researcher), Mrs Nocawe Mxinwa (Party Researcher), MrVuyisile Mfuniselwa (Committee Assistant) and Ms Khanyisa Ndyondya (Parliamentary Media).
Prof I Moutlana: Vice-Chancellor, Prof G Zide: Deputy Vice-Chancellor Institutional Support, Prof A Louw: Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic, Prof P Naidoo: Deputy Vice-Chancellor Resource & Planning, Mr K Kasankola: Senior Director Human Resources, Mr F Tsieane: Executive Director Finance, Mr T Mokoena: Registrar Academic Support
1.3 Terms of Reference/ Purpose of the meeting:
The purpose of the oversight visit was to interact with the various stakeholders of the university including top management on the following issues: NSFAS bursary, student drop-out, transformation plan and, the situation that prevailed at the university then. The Committee also felt very strong to be briefed on the resolutions of the violence that hit the university at the beginning of the year.
The delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Education, having conducted an oversight visit to the Vaal University of Technology, discovered the following key issues:
§ There was consensus that VUT is emerging from a culture that was characterised by policy void, unyielding power of students (particularly the Student Representative Council), ad hoc appointment of staff and low productivity.
§ The University did not have a transformation plan. The process of crafting a transformation plan was in progress as there was currently a process of stakeholder engagement to develop the terms of reference for the facilitator.
§ The succession plan of VUT had not been implemented in the past, leading to low staff retention. High staff turnover was also caused by the competition between industry and institutions of higher learning, largely related to competitive salaries.
§ Various student leadership formations did not trust the management and had a fear of being victimised due to their participation in student leadership activities.
§ The provision of transport to students attending lecturers was a cause for concern to students.
§ Students complained about the lack of transparency in the utilisation of the university’s funds
§ Legitimacy of the Council was highly questionable by both the Unions and student leadership organizations.
§ There was an allegation from both students and unions that the closure of the Klerksdorp Campus was not properly communicated to the university population.
2. Meeting at the VUT Chambers:
Prof Irene Moutlana welcomed the delegation of the PC on Education and other special guest to the meeting. She acknowledged that, the visit of the PC on Education was highly appreciated by management and other stakeholders of the institution. She handed over to the Chairperson and leader of the delegation Prof. S. Mayatula to introduce the delegation and, brief the meeting about the purpose of the visit.
Prof. S. Mayatula, the Chairperson and leader of the delegation of the PC on Education briefly introduced the delegation together with the support staff. The Chairperson briefly outlined the mandate of the committee as conducting oversight from Grade R to the highest institutions of learning and, responsibility of considering all legislation that affects education. He mentioned that, as part of its oversight function, the committee visits institutions of higher learning to obtain a broader perspective of the situation of the institution from its various stakeholders. He indicated that, the committee was not visiting the institution to make any judgements. However, the purpose of the visit was to be briefed by management and relevant stakeholders about key issues that affected the institution and, given the institution’s policies, what has been done to address those critical issues.
2.1 Presentation by Prof I Moutlana: Vice-Chancellor
Prof. Irene Moutlana, the Vice-Chancellor VUT, welcomed the opportunity to present to the delegation of the Portfolio Committee on Education. She appreciated the Committee’s willingness to help the VUT. Her presentation focused on matters that took place in 2007 and the progress made in 2008.
The VC indicated that, in 2006 the former VC Mr A Mokadi’s services were terminated due to allegations of mismanagement of the institution. In 2007, Prof. I. Moutlana was appointed as the new Vice-Chancellor of VUT. On her arrival, the institution was much disorganized. There were no policies in the institution. The SRC was occupying 16 offices of the institution. The SRC members were receiving prestige awards and free meals. The open door policy was abused. There were many ad hoc appointments and many people holding acting positions. The students had significant power and overlooked senior management for their interest. Restructuring of staff was happening willy-nilly, without any order.The image of the institution had been shattered by poor academic results and low throughput. The partnership of the institution and its donors was affected negatively. It was discovered that, one student had been doing a Diplomas for over 10 years and some more than 6 years. External sources were thinking that, the institution was to be degraded from a university of technology to a college.
In 2008, the institution approached the Department of Education to assist it with the Institutional Operational Plan (IOP). Through this IOP a number of focus areas were identified. The institution submitted a remedial plan to the Higher Education Qualifications Committee (HEQC) for recommendations. A meeting with the Minister of Education was organized to improve teaching outputs and issues around student accommodation. The risk assessment and 2nd phase of Disaster Recovery plan had been completed. The institution established a whistle blowing facility that was aimed at reducing misconduct of both students and staff members. After a long process of consultation with the DoE and the institution’s stakeholders, the Klerksdorp Campus was finally phased out. The institution managed to accommodate students from theKlersdorp Campus to continue with their studies effectively. A resolution was implemented that resulted in the creation of thirty new lecturing posts and six others in key support positions to boost the institutions productivity.
2.2 Current challenges:
§ Some members of the unions are closely aligned to outside persons determined to undermine the success of VUT under a new leadership
§ Lack of good communication between students and management
§ Poor academic results in human and management sciences
§ Decreased enrolment rate due to funding caps
§ Poor transport service for students
§ Resistance from the student leadership in complying with new policies of the institution
§ Unions complaining about the poor dispensation of support staff
§ Students not satisfied with the function and legitimacy of the Council
§ Logo of the institution too old
§ Filling of the vacant posts
§ Four SRC Members suspended from SRC in May for alleged fraud
§ Whistle blowing facility very effective
§ Development of a five-year marketing plan to attract donors
§ Eradication of bad practises that existed in students and staff members
§ Unqualified audit report
§ Improved graduate pass rate
§ Good management of the NSFAS bursary
§ Positive accreditation received from South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA)
§ Good working relationship with DoE
2.4 Concluding remarks:
In concluding the presentation, Prof I Moutlana indicated that with the appointment of the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the institution has developed a five-year marketing plan and, employed experts in marketing in order to attract more donors to the institution. Management was proposing to change the logo of the institution because it was too old and not in line with the mandate of the institution. The events that took place at the beginning of the year erupted as a result that student demanded extension on the registration period. However, after that incident the situation of the institution had been calm and academic activities were normal. The institution would like the committee to assist it by ensuring that additional resources are provided from government to bring the institution on the same infrastructure and capacity levels as that of other higher education institutions.
3. Meeting with the Unions:
Prof S Mayatula welcomed the Unions to the meeting. He mentioned that, the committee was in the institution as part of its oversight function over institutions of higher learning. He indicated that the committee had invited the Unions in order for them to express their opinions on the situation of the institution and, later give feedback to management. After this visit, the committee would compile a report with recommendations and, that report will be presented to National Assembly. The Minister of Education would then implement the resolution taken from the report.
National Union of Tertiary Educators of South Africa (NUTESA)
Mr Martin Joubert, the Chairperson of Nutesa led the presentation. His presentation highlighted the following key issues:
§ The university is loosing valuable staff to industries which are offering higher salaries.
§ Nutesa is concerned with the succession plan of the university because it favours outside people versus the internal ones.
§ The Nutesa represents academic staff’s interests
Mr Stone Liphoko, the Chairperson of Nehawu, welcomed the opportunity to present the input of Nehawu. His presentation highlighted the following key issues:
§ Majority employees of the institution are employed on contract basis, and this threatens their job security.
§ There was no transparency in the utilisation of the institution’s finances.
§ There was no policy in place for promotion of support staff, and as a result support staff employees remained in same position for several years.
§ Applied Science’s and Engineering department was dominated by white academic staff and, the institution should consider employment of black lecturers in that department to reflect the demography of the province.
§ There was racism in the dispensation of academic staff. White lecturers received more salaries than black lecturers that are at the same level.
§ Alleged unfair dismissal of the former Vice-Chancellor.
§ Institutional Forum (IF) should be given an opportunity to influence appointment of senior managers.
3.1 Questions and comments raised by Members:
It emerged that, there was racism in the dispensation of lecturers. The committee wanted to know, whether remuneration of lecturers was based on race.
A point was raised earlier concerning the union’s dissatisfaction in the dismissal of the former Vice-Chancellor. The delegation wanted to know, whether this case was not being handled by the labour court.
The committee was very concerned with the role played by both Unions in the institution. The committee was shocked to notice that Nehawuwas presented by majority black representatives while Nutesa was entirely white representatives. The committee wanted to know whether there was integration of race within the Unions.
It emerged that the unions were dissatisfied with the departure of qualified lecturers to industries. The committee informed the Unions that, this was a national problem that affected other higher education institutions. The committee further elaborated that, lecturers were being attracted by good remuneration / package that is offered by industries.
It emerged from Nehawu that, workers rights especially the support staff were not recognized. A question was asked whether the unions did inform management concerning this issue.
3.2 Responses from the Unions:
The Unions play a very important role in representing labour rights in the institution. Nehawu represents the majority of support staff whileNutesa represents the academic staff. There is integration of race in both Unions because, they consist of both races.
The institution does not have a policy in place that looked after the interest of workers. The support staff were not valued by management of the institution since promotion was only given to academic staff. The budget allocated to pay salaries to the support staff should be increased because currently the dispensation of support staff is unacceptable.
The unions were not properly consulted in regard to the dismissal of the former Vice-Chancellor. The only information they received was that, the former VC was charged with criminal offences and the case was before the labour court.
4. Meeting with Student Leadership:
Prof S Mayatula welcomed the students to the meeting. He briefly introduced the mandate of the committee as passing all legislation affecting education and oversight responsibility over institutions of higher learning and even schools. He further indicated that the Committee invited student leadership to express its opinion on the critical issues that affects the institution. He indicated that management was to be informed of the issues raised by students.
a) Presentation by the Young Communist League (YCL):
Mr T Mbengeni, the Secretary of the YCL highlighted the following key issues:
§ The YCL declares a motion of no confidence in management of the institution
§ Poor service delivery in the residential areas and cafeteria.
§ The closure of Klerksdorp Campus was done without proper consultation.
§ Poor transport service affects the mobility of students.
§ Lack of transparency in the utilisation of the institution’s funds.
§ Victimization of student leadership should stop immediately.
§ Departure of lectures is affecting the academic performance of students
b) Presentation by the South African Students Congress (SASCO):
Mr Sedimo Thabani, the Secretary of SASCO highlighted the following key issues:
§ The output of the institution is poor.
§ Utilisation of the international levy is not clear.
§ There is a problem with the quality of the institution’s lecturers.
§ Students should be subsidized to buy bus tickets.
§ Returning of funds to NSFAS while there are students that are struggling should stop.
§ Security guards of the Campus should stop threatening student leaders.
c) Presentation by Black Management Forum - Student Chapter:
Mr. Tsepo Marumule highlighted the following issues:
§ Lack of transformation.
§ Suppression of student leadership.
§ Problem with the Council of the institution, especially the Chairperson.
d) Presentation by the Student’s Representative Council (SRC):
Mr Donald Manganye, the President of SRC highlighted the following key issues:
§ The University Council is not looking after students interests.
§ Legitimacy of the University Council is highly questionable.
§ No intervention from the Department of Education to observe problems in the institution.
§ The institution does not have a system to check academic fraud.
§ The SRC demands that, the institution should be an environment in which excellence is achieved.
Mr. David Tsotetsi, Member of the SRC:
§ Students were not happy with the appointment of both the Vice-Chancellor and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor.
§ Though one of the DVC is being investigated, he has not been suspended.
§ The victimisation of students is rife.
e) Presentation by the Student Christian Organization (SCO):
Mr Progress Sandlane, the Secretary of SCO highlighted the following key issues:
§ The NSFAS office in Sebokeng Campus cannot accommodate all students but funds are returned.
§ The students have a problem of having to pay for transport to the main campus.
§ Student’s leadership is not given freedom to express its opinion to the Council.
§ There is misuse of power by senior management of the institution to oppress student’s leadership.
§ A member of the institution’s senior management is under investigation for fraud.
4.1 Questions and comments raised by Members:
It was observed that, the students were questioning the legitimacy and role played by the Council in the institution. The committee wanted more clarity on this issue.
Members asked, whether there was evidence regarding allegations towards the institution with allegation of fraud.
It was evident that, students were very afraid to raise their opinions to management because of the fear of being punished. A question was asked, whether management was victimizing students leaders.
It emerged from all student leaders that, the manner in which the institution was utilising its finances was highly questionable. The committee wanted more clarity on this issue.
The SRC offices were indeed 16 and the SRC representatives liaised with the Council in requesting these offices and the Council approved the request. The money that is paid to SRC leader goes to their fees and, it is not for personal gain or interest.
International students paid a levy of R1800 per annum and, there was no transparency to what was being done with that money. The conditions in the residential areas and cafeteria are not good. However, institution receives funds from the Department of Education and, there is no transparency in the utilisation of the institution’s finances.
The management of the institution was victimizing the political structures of the institution. Political leaders were threatened for expressing their views to management and, some of them were being told that, they will never finish their Degree’s or Diplomas.
The strike that took place at the beginning of the year occurred for a valid reason. Students were striking to be registered as some of them were in a waiting list for a very long time. There was no intention for requesting bashes as claimed by the Vice-Chancellor.
The selection procedure of members of the Council was not constitutional. The Council had a very close working relationship with the Department of Education which is questionable. The Council was not looking after students interests as their voices are not being recognized by it.
The memorandum that was written to the Minister of Education by student leadership of the institution never got a response. The department did not respond to the request of the students in appealing against the closure of the Klerksdorp Campus. Students were never consulted about the closure of this Campus and, they feel that, they are being excluded in the activities of the institution.
Students demanded that, there should be honesty and transparency in the utilisation of the institutional funds.
5. Feedback to management:
The committee, having conducted meetings with both the unions and student leadership reported the following observations to management:
§ It emerged from all bodies of student leadership that, management had a very close working relationship that was highly questionable with the Department of Education.
§ It was observe that, both the unions and student leadership were not properly consulted with the closing of the Klerksdorp Campus. In addition to that, the committee discovered that, management was not attentive to opinions from student leadership.
§ Members questioned management on its negative attitude towards student leadership. It further elaborated that, student leaders were very afraid of management. The committee emphasized that, if this statement was indeed valid, then management was very unfair towards students.
§ It emerged from both unions that high staff turn-over was affecting the productivity of the institution. The committee wanted to know, whether the institution had mechanisms in place to address that issue.
§ The unions outlined that, the Institutional Forum (IF) was not given a say in the appointment of academic staff. In addition to that, the Unions complained that, there was no policy that supported non academic’s interests.
§ It emerged that racism in some of the department’s of the institution existed. The unions indicated that, some faculties especially the Science and Engineering consisted of entirely white lecturers. In addition, racism in the dispensations of lecturers was also highlighted.
§ Based on the memorandum dated 14 April on from Prof. G.N. Zide, the DVC, Institutional Support, entitled, “Discussion Document – Transformation and Change Management” the Committee observed that the institution was still at the planning stage for transformation.
Students of this institution had a free access to the office of the former Vice-Chancellor. Since the arrival of the new Vice-Chancellor, that was completely stopped and students had to follow a proper procedure when requesting for a meeting with management. Management did not exclude student leadership in its meetings. However, the problem with the students was that, they demanded meetings whenever they wantedwithout following procedures.
The appointment of Council members was legitimate and constitutional. The statues were followed properly in the appointment of the all Council members. The students were complaining because most of the times they would not be present in the sub-council meetings.
Students were never victimized by management of this institution. However, the problem with the students was that, they did not follow the statutes and constitutionality with regards to their presentation to the sub-council meetings where major decisions are made.
The funeral levy was established to support the family of the deceased student with funds at the time of despair. However, the students wished that, the money of the funeral policy that remains at the end of be used for something else.
The institution was aware of the transport problem experienced by students and, a transport committee was established to address this issue. However, some students did not bother to buy a bus ticket and, this had negative impact on the service provider.
Prof S Mayatula expressed his gratitude to the management of the VUT for the meeting. He indicated that, the meetings with various stakeholders of the institution gave the committee an in-depth understanding of the situation of the institution. He mentioned that, the committee was going to make recommendations and, present those recommendations to Parliament for the executive to implement.
The committee recommends that the University give consideration to the following:
§ The management of the VUT needs to restore, inculcate and reinforce a sound culture of leadership to rebuild the image of the institution.
§ The university needs to intensify the process of developing a transformation plan, in line with the relevant legislation on higher education.
§ The retention fund should be utilised effectively to prevent the exodus of skilled staff. The University should learn from best practice approaches implemented by other institutions of higher learning.
§ Management needs to develop mechanisms to encourage open communication and cordial relationship with student leaders.
§ The study that is said to be investigating the provision of transport for students across campuses needs to be prioritised to allow for an efficient and cost-effective provision of transport fro students.
§ The institution should prioritise academic productivity as its key function to attract prospective students to the institution.
Report to be considered
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