On 9 November 2016 the Office of the Registrar hosted a full-day student listening session at a packed ZK Matthews Hall. The session was ably facilitated by Prof Kealeboga Maphunye, incumbent of Unisa’s WIPHOLD-Brigalia Bam Research Chair in Electoral Democracy in Africa.
In his opening remarks, Prof Somadoda Fikeni, Advisor to the Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC) and Director of VC Projects, emphasised that communication is a very important and fundamental aspect of stakeholder engagement. “The student listening session is an initiative by Unisa to give students a platform to engage the university and its management,” he said.
Speaking about the purpose of the listening session Prof Gordon Zide, Registrar: Academic, Enrolments and Administration, said that there is a need to go back to the roots of a tradition whereby the community gathered to listen and raise their concerns on a shared platform. “Unisa created this platform for student to raise their concerns without fear of being victimised,” he said. “We want to learn from our students.”
Students from all the regional centres participated via a video link, and members of the regional students representative councils from the North West, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Midlands, Tshwane and Johannesburg present at the venue to raise challenges experienced in their respective regions.
Throughout the day a thread of common issues emerged. These included poor communication between the university and students, poor service delivery, issues around the submission of assignments , the late delivery of study material, registration issues, the absence of a call centre, opening hours of facilities at centres and the negative attitude displayed by some staff members. The issue of accessibility to students with disabilities, especially at regional level, was also prominently raised.
In conclusion the Registrar’s portfolio said that it will host a strategic session on 24 and 25 November 2016 at which the concerns, complaints and comments that were raised at the session will be discussed in detail. The portfolio also acknowledged that there are issues which need urgent attention, and that therefore need to be resolved before the strategic session.
By Edgar Rathelele