A group of University of Namibia distance students have registered a long list of gripes and claim the institution’s administration fails them, which negatively affects their academic progression.
Unam, through its Centre for Open, Distance and eLearning (Codel), aims to provide and cater for distance and e-learning students.
The distance students wrote a letter to New Era, highlighting issues such as systems failures during online examinations, the deregistration of modules, cancellation of examination centres, wrong continuous assessment marks as well as the delayed uploading of student accounts.
“We are a group of students from different Unam campuses countrywide, experiencing discomfort in the way Unam is handling our problems. Unam is one of the biggest institutions in the country, but when it comes to administration, they are failing the students, especially distance students. Covid-19 just made it worse. Unam staff are not picking up calls for enquiries and they are not responding to our emails either,” complained the students.
They say they are guided by a team of Unam staff through the registration process and on which modules to register for, just for the university to deregister the modules after the students had completed all the assignments, written examinations and also paid for these modules.
“To make matters worse, our targeted years of study are prolonged due to this unfortunate situation. This is a two-year course, but we end up spending up to six years, just because of this misfortune,” they charged.
The cancellation of examination centres is also a concern as students feel this decision was taken at the wrong time with everyone affected by the pandemic, be it financially or otherwise, and travelling to get to an examination venue is really difficult for students who are writing face-to-face modules.
In response, Unam spokesperson John Haufiku said registration is a complicated process, and as is the case with challenging processes, a quality assurance mechanism is a requirement.
“Unam carries out a registration audit right after each registration. This is meant to evaluate whether rules, processes and systems were followed or adhered to. It is during this process that students with prerequisite modules and others that may not qualify for admission are identified and deregistered. Though this happens with the help of technology, a human touch (faculty officers) needs to go over every student before action is taken,” he said.
Haufiku added that while faculty officers have a degree of responsibility to ensure that students register for the right modules, students equally carry some of this responsibility.
“They are required to make sure that they do not add subjects that they do not qualify for. This is clearly explained in each faculty prospectus.”
On the cancellation of examination centres, Haufiku stated that the closure of centres signals a move to make assessments online for both online and distance students.
Another issue bothering the students is being ‘absent from examination’. “They will write absent from exam because they lost your answer script, and you are left to redo the module if you do not have proof that you wrote the examination, and that simply means you are paying for the same module again,” charged the students.
Haufiku replied that the institution is aware of a few cases where some students receive a result code indicating absent from examination while they had taken examinations.
“This unfortunately has nothing to do with a missing or lost script, but mainly a result of continuous assessment marks that are not available at the time of releasing the final mark. This also calls for improvements in the system, process and procedures, which the office should look at in consultation with faculties,” he responded.