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Court orders varsity to give student pass mark

Fort Hare wanted to award 23% mark instead of a 57% for an assignment

The University of Fort Hare.
The University of Fort Hare.
Image: Rod Bally/ File photo

A final year University of Fort Hare student, who sought urgent relief in court over a decision to fail him after he submitted his final practical assessments late, has been granted reprieve.

Mbali Silimela, who was a Bachelor of Education student in 2022, brought an urgent application against the university after the institution overturned an earlier decision by the faculty of education which would have seen him pass a module by 57%.

Instead, the senate had wanted to award him a fail mark of 23%.

In a judgment, Bhisho High Court judge B Hartle on Tuesday ordered the university to “properly consider a recommendation by university's dean of education Prof Vusumuzi Mncube to have Silimela’s request to have his late submissions of the practical training components condoned”.

The university had argued in court that Silimela could not be awarded a pass mark due to the late submissions and further reasoned that the official marking system had closed.

The course, which is in the process of being phased out by the university, was a compulsory module for a school experience portfolio in addition to other courses.

To pass the course, Silimela was required to submit history method videos on September 2 and his admin portfolio for the practical training on October 13. Silimela made both submissions on November 11.

He did not provide the court reasons for failing to make the deadline.

Silimela argued that the faculty saw fit to assess his practical work despite the institution’s February decision be declared of no force and effect.

He also wanted the court to direct the university “to finalise the correction of [his] marks” and to review and set aside the decision of the senate for rejecting the correction of his marks.

The court found that the senate’s failure to have endorsed Silimela's corrected mark was taken without good reason.

“In order to demonstrate the curious stance adopted by the university, it cannot refute that the applicant’s assessments were ultimately marked at the higher rate, but it now also insists that that mark [the revised one of 57% in which all the applicant’s hopes reside] came too late for submission before the closure date for final marks to be uploaded on the university’s system,” said Hartle.

“This appears to be its reason why it is 'game over' for the applicant who must in its view instead either re-enrol for the module [which it has said in no uncertain terms is being phased out] or that he must seek a re-assessment.”

Hartle raised concerns that the university had not disclosed everything that was placed before it in relation to Silimela's unique scenario.

“In all the circumstances, I am satisfied that the applicant has made out a case for judicial review in the sense that the senate has failed to take a critical decision which it was obliged to following the faculty’s recommendation put before it that the applicant’s late mark of 57% should be approved.

“The enormous prejudice to the applicant thereby which he has for a long time coming sought to address informally with the university [very volubly, I might add] requires that the decision be taken with great alacrity,” said Hartle.

He said if the university does not approve the faculty's recommendation, the decision-maker is to provide adequate written reasons to the applicant for his/her/its decision adverse to his interests at the same time it publishes its decision.


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