News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Monday May 20th 2019

UCT med school in disarray

Caitlin Ross
The University of Cape Town’s Medical School appears to be in disarray since it opened on January 7, with lecturers failing to arrive and confusion reigning over teaching and practical demonstration venues.

The confusion seems to be most prevalent among fifth to final year students, causing anxiety over their ability to pass their first examinations for the year, looming in six weeks time.

“I have attended so many lectures this year where I just sit there and wait and eventually you just leave. Or you get there and the department is not even aware of your presence, or don’t know what you’re doing,” said a sixth-year student, who, like other students interviewed, wished to remain anonymous for fear of being victimized by the university authorities.

A fifth-year student had the same experience. “In the last two weeks we’ve only had four tuts (tutorials),” he said.

Students said the system of Self Directed Study (SDL), in which students teach themselves using their books, was used to justify lecturers’ failure to pitch for class.

“You’re supposed to get tuts but basically if no-one shows up they call it SDL,” said a fifth-year student.
“I feel like I’m studying medicine via correspondence,” said another student, after she and her classmates were thrown out of a scheduled class in theatre on Tuesday (Jan 26). The student said the doctor who was supposed to give the class told them she had already taught a class earlier in the day.
Nobody knows what the hell is going on,” said the student.

Some of the students compared UCT unfavourably to other medical schools.

“It’s normal for UCT. I think we fall far behind other med schools. Our parents are paying hundreds of thousands of rands for nothing,” a final-year student said.

To add insult to injury, UCT medical school fees have been hiked by R15 000 this year.

In an attempt to have the problem resolved, a student said they approached the dean of the faculty, only to be told to take the complaint to another professor.

Students also believe they will be persecuted if they are known to have complained.

“We are jittery. They can nail you.”

Student Representative Council manager Jerome September said the SRC knew nothing of the situation at the medical school, but “would look into it”.

Manager of development, communication and marketing at UCT, Melanie Jackson, said: “We are initiating our own enquiries as these are serious allegations. As we take these issues seriously, it will take time to reach any conclusions. I will alert you as soon as we have something concrete.”

Tags: medical school, Melanie Jackson, Self Directed Study, University of Cape Town

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