Medical Students Protest Over Failure Rate

Xoliswa Zulu, Independent On-line, Jan. 23, 2007

A small police contingent gathered outside the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Monday when medical students staged a protest against the high failure rate of fourth-year and final-year medical students in 2006.

Talks between the university and the students were held in vain on Monday and the students have vowed to continue their protests on Tuesday.

A total of 40 final-year students failed their final exams and 17 of the 32 who wrote the supplementary exam also failed, whereas 77 fourth-year students failed in 2006 and, of these, 26 failed their supplementary exams.

‘The students want to be taught properly’

Students are now accusing the department of changing the examining format. They have also attributed the high failure rate to the “ever-changing mode” of teaching.

The 17 students who failed the supplementary exam would now have to repeat the subjects they failed and the fourth-year failures would have to repeat the entire year.

Medical Student Representative Council President Sabelo Msomi said the fourth-year failures should be allowed to enter their final year of studies.

“The students want to be taught properly and to be taught what they have failed. They want to continue with their education and proceed (to the next year). There were some components that they were not taught and the exam had questions from the old curriculum (which they had not been taught) and not the new.

“They (the examiners) still included questions that the students were not taught. We want a re-examination. When the students brought up that there was a flaw in the teaching methods, we were assured that this would be resolved.”

‘This is unacceptable’

Msomi added that the management was not willing to meet the students’ demands and that the protests would continue until they met the academic affairs department of the university.

Professor Willem Sturm, Dean of the Medical School, said the students’ council was negotiating to have the 26 fourth-year students proceed to their final year without passing the subjects they had failed.

“This is unacceptable,” he said.

Sturm added that the 10 percent failure rate recorded by the students was “acceptable”.

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