SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

South Africa: Dept Closes Nursing College Following Illegal Strike

Pretoria — The Gauteng Department of Health has taken a decision to close down the Chris Hani Baragwanath Nursing College indefinitely following a week-long illegal protest and class disruptions by students.

"Student nurses are expected to vacate the college premises by this afternoon," the department said in a statement on Wednesday.

This follows a week-long illegal protest by students who demanded that three Heads of Department (HODs) should be removed from the college. The students have also defied a court interdict compelling them to stop the protest and return to classes.

Health MEC Hope Papo said: "The department remains committed to addressing whatever legitimate grievances the students may have, but will not act unlawfully against any of its staff members."

The dispute over the continued employment of the HODs started in 2011 when the students submitted grievances demanding the removal of the staff members, amongst others. The department said it has taken all reasonable steps to resolve the dispute but the students have remained adamant.

In 2011, the department instituted an investigation into the grievances by students. The reporting lines of the HODs were temporarily changed during the investigation and they did not report to the college. The investigation team completed their reporting in February 2012.

Meanwhile, the HODs declared a dispute over the changing of their reporting lines. They sought and won an arbitration award allowing them to return to their duties.

The HODs returned to the college in August last year and the students reacted by protesting and disrupting the functioning of the college. It was then agreed that the HODs should go on special leave to allow the department to stabilise the situation and establish a conducive environment for learning and teaching to take place.

"A series of meetings was held with the members of the student representative council in an attempt to find an amicable solution and to ensure a smooth return of the HODs to their posts. The department even appointed a private mediator to assist the process of finding an amicable solution to the impasse. The students however refused to participate in the mediation process," Papo said.

The students resumed their protest action on 7 January. The situation deteriorated with the students refusing to return to classes and preventing the resumption of learning.

Papo explained that the decision to close down the nursing college followed the failure by students to respond positively to the court interdict that was served to them on 15 January instructing them to stop the protest and interrupting classes with immediate effect.

The students have until this afternoon to vacate the nursing residences, said the department.

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