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UTG students on sit-down strike

Apr 1, 2015, 2:45 PM | Article By: Lamin Jahateh

(Issue,Monday 30 March 2015)

The University of The Gambia (UTG) is in a state of disorder as the students do not see eye to eye with the administration about a new grading system introduced at the higher learning institution.

The students of the university are vehemently and unanimously standing against the new grading system, which they said is going to “make it difficult for any of the students to have an A.”

The students want the new grading system scrapped and the earlier one restored “immediately”, otherwise there will be no lectures at the university. 

Their stance is for the new grading system to be applied to the incoming students, not to those already enrolled. 

The UTG Students’ Union has passed a written notice that “no student will attend any lecture from 26 March till after the proposed meeting on 6 April 2015”.

“This is a unanimous decision from the general students’ body at a meeting on 26th March, 2015 at the MDI,” the Students’ Union said in a letter to the registrar of the university.

Under the old grading system, there was three ‘As’ (A+ [which is from 90% to 100%], A neutral [from 80% to 89%] and A – [from 70% to 79%]). 

Under the new system, all the ‘As’ will be ‘A neutral’ and the mark for it is 90% - 100%.  Not only that, the cumulative point for ‘A’, under the old grading system was 4, but under the new system, ‘A’ carries a cumulative point of 4.0.

“This is the main area of contention under the new grading system,” said a student who prefers anonymity.  “It is going to make it difficult for any student to have ‘A’ because many of the lecturers here hardly give marks above 90%; they used to say that giving more than 90% is equal to perfection and perfection is for God.” 

“In addition to affecting students’ grades and cumulative points, the new system is confusing because there will be two different grading systems in the same transcript for the same student; how can you defend it when you graduate and get into the labour market?” the outspoken student said.

The new grading system was first introduced in the latter part of 2014, but when the sentiment of anger and dissatisfaction was scented in the air, the senate of the university convened a meeting and decided to bring back the earlier grading system. 

The students said when the senate was taking the decision of bringing the old system back, the then vice chancellor,  Prof Muhammadou M. O. Kah, was out of the country.  “But as soon as he came back, he reverted the decision of the senate and ordered for the restoration of the new grading system,” the students claimed.

As a result of this purported decision of the former vice chancellor, the students, on Tuesday, mobilized themselves and organised a peaceful demonstration by marching to the Ministry of Higher Education to table their concerns before Minister Dr Aboubacarr Senghore. 

Dr Senghore himself later came to the university with several other cabinet ministers.  A meeting was convened between the ministers and the university administration, including the vice chancellor and the students.  A follow-up meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, but this could not be possible. 

However, the university administration on Thursday said each of the eight schools of the university should select two representatives for a meeting with the authorities (university administration and the relevant ministers) on 6 April 2015. 

The authorities are expected to make their final verdict regarding the grading system on that day.

Without delay, the Students’ Union announced that until the April 6 meeting, there will be no lectures and, even after the meeting when any pronouncement is made different from the restoration of the earlier grading system, the sit-down strike “is going to continue”.

Other demands

Even though the restoration of the grading system is the main bone of contention, the students also want the 10 per cent annual increment on the university tuition to be stopped forthwith.

They also want to see that at least one of the university buses be allocated to transporting students coming from Brikama and environs to the Kanifing campus.  Presently, all the buses of the university are only allocated to transporting students from Brikama to the Faraba campus, but the students said as it is for Brikama-Faraba and it should be for Brikama-Kanifing.

As for now, the outcome of the disorder at the university is a matter of wait-and-see.