With the Walter Sisulu University (WSU) strike finally over, catch-up plans were set in motion this week to make up for lost time.
For seven weeks, lecturers downed tools at WSU, leaving more than 21 000 students with no one to teach them, even as exams were looming.
But this week, WSU spokesperson Angela Church said all stakeholders agreed to a catch-up plan that will ensure that the students are well prepared for their exams and make up for all the weeks of learning they had lost due to the protracted strike.
As part of the strategy, all lecturers and students were back in class on Tuesday after a settlement had been reached by the unions and management the previous day.
Unions and management agreed to a 5% salary increase – a compromise from the 8-10% demands of the unions, while management offered 4.25%.
Also as part of the catch-up, there would be no weekends and public holidays for WSU lecturers and students, as they make up for lost time.
According to Church, exams, which normally start at the beginning of November, would only start in December to prepare the students thoroughly for their year-end examinations.
“We have revised the academic school calendar, we will only be able to close on December 20 and results will only come out next year January. This is part of the catch-up plan to make up for the strike,” Church said.
She said the institution was relieved the strike had finally come to an end and described the past seven weeks as having been “hectic” for everyone.
Amid fears, lecturers would not return to class if their August salaries were not paid. Church said all staff members had received their salaries today.
The salaries had been withheld by the university as part of the “no work no pay” rule, leaving lecturers and administrative staff without their pay for last month.
Church said that as part of a long-term solution, management was looking at proposing a wage agreement that would be binding for at least three years, instead of the current situation where parties have to negotiate every year.
“The strike set us back big time but we are working to turn things around. There are lots of dynamics when it comes to WSU, for instance the university is still under administration and still feeling the effects of a failed merger,” she said.
The provincial secretary of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union, Xolani Malamlela, could not be reached for comment.
Student Representative Council president Ngobe Lali said as students they welcomed the catch-up plan though it could prove to be costly.
“The pressure that comes with this plan might be too much for some of the students to handle, Lali said.
A second-year Management of Training student, Lali said students had suffered a lot during the strike and that the catch-up plan would bring further strain to them.
“There is going to be a lot of work load placed on us and we have to do so much in such a short space of time. Not everyone can manage that, but we don’t have a choice,” he said.
– City Press
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