By Jessica Nanjendo
Pharmacy students at the United States International University took to the streets of Nairobi on Thursday, 28th March to demonstrate against the university’s poor management of the program among other grievances.
Following those demonstrations, Vice Chancellor Paul Zeleza held a meeting between students and faculty on Saturday, 30th in a bid to address the students’ demand for the revision of their current grading system.
The strike, being the first of its kind in the university has seen the students miss classes for around two weeks, falling behind schedule as they also boycotted the submission of assignments, taking quizzes as well as attending lab sessions. This has gotten parents and other students worried that the situation might escalate to a point of discontinuing classes for the striking students.
Speaking at the meeting, the Vice Chancellor said that the earliest the proposal can be investigated is in July as it can only be deliberated on by the Student Council which only meets in July. He says that once the matter is forwarded to the student council, the council may “adopt, reject, or recommend further revisions to the proposal”. This means that there is a possibility that the grade change might not be affected at all, should the council rule against it.
In effect of the Vice Chancellor’s announcement, some students were relieved as the meeting saw a deliberation on the way forward for a tentative plan that will be used to calculate their grades in a friendlier manner this semester. However, the bulk of the Students have taken to social media to express their dissatisfaction, saying that the very first cohort of the program has been in a tussle with the university management over the matter since 2015.
“This issue has been around for quite some time and although we sat for a meeting with them, I am not confident that the matter will be resolved in July as they are saying,” Julia, a student in her second year stated.
The students claim that the grading system is unfair and puts them at a disadvantage when compared to pharmacy students in other universities. A student who preferred their name withheld said that the high grading system has had a score of students being held back and others being forced to retake entire years. She reiterated the need for a uniform grading system that is at par with other universities offering the program.
Among other issues discussed in the meeting was the removal of mandatory seven o’clock classes that are said to have been imposed on the pharmacy students only. The soon to be pharmacists demanded that they should be given the freedom to choose their own timetable as other students in the school does.
Besides that, students tabled complaints about cases of students in their senior year failing to do lab sessions that they claim to have paid for. “A situation like that would mean that I might miss out on graduation, yet the school only has one graduation ceremony every year” Mary, a student in her senior year explained in an interview conducted after the meeting.
The students are set to resume classes on the 13th week of the semester with the tentative grading system in place until the university’s Student council can provide a permanent solution to the problem come July this year.