Chaos reigned supreme at Lupane State University (LSU) on Monday after lecturers went on strike and abandoned invigilation duties, leaving the university at the mercy of security guards who were roped in to take over the task.
Security guards and other non-academic staff members had to be deployed to preside over examinations at the ZITF examination centre in Bulawayo after the lecturers downed tools over a number of grievances including dissertation contracts.
Speaking to CITE, students who were due for the Monday morning 8 am papers said they only got to start writing more than two hours later after some students had approached the university looking for answers.
Some students reportedly abandoned the mission and walked out of the examination centre.
Lecturers who spoke to CITE said through their no show stunt, they were sending a strong message to the university to ensure that it addresses the plight of academics and irons out all grievances without expecting them to work when there were outstanding issues.
Some lecturers arrived in the morning allegedly to confirm that their papers were being written but left when they realised that there would be no invigilators.
Responding to questions from CITE in an interview, the registrar Jairos Makunde confirmed that the university had challenges securing invigilators and said non-academic staff members had to be asked to preside over exams.
He said academics did not turn up for invigilation duty owing to outstanding dissertation supervision contracts and payments.
When asked about guards invigilating students, Makunde said the purpose of security officers in the exam hall on Monday was to “provide security for the candidates”.
Some students who spoke to this publication confirmed that security officers took over invigilation duties such as the distribution of exam papers and answer booklets and stayed in the hall for the duration of their three-hour-long papers, which is not the norm when all is well.
Makunde said the university had since addressed the situation with examinations ongoing “smoothly”.
“We have since taken care of the situation and are using our non-teaching senior staff members to provide invigilation,” he said.
The state university has had issues of students and academics protesting previously over various issues from conditions of services to quality of food served at the main campus in Lupane.
The registrar said the reasons for the latest challenges were a “perennial issue” which he said would be addressed in a meeting to be held this week.
“It is a perennial issue, we have a sticking issue on the payment of dissertation fees. We are having a meeting this week with the academic staff association representatives to sort it out. It’s not that we do not have money to pay, rather it is the issue of contracts. So we need to rectify that by having a meeting with academic representatives,” he said.
Makunde promised to give feedback on the results of the meeting and promised that in future examinations in this session would not be interrupted.