Medical varsity is dying from protests, in dire need of life-saving surgery
Rogue elements are preventing Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University from flourishing. It needs help
Imagine you are a treated by a doctor or dentist who in every year of his or her studies lost about one-and-a-half to three months of academic training. Stop imagining. If you are served by a graduate of the country’s only specialist university, your life could be in danger. Welcome to Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU), a once promising institution named after the second president of the ANC.
Here, unfolding before our eyes, is a national tragedy affecting 6,000 students that nobody in politics or education seems to care about. The roots of dysfunction at this campus stretches way back to its origins as the Medical University of SA (Medunsa) in a tumultuous year, 1976. In those days it was not uncommon to chase university leaders off campus, disrupt classes and cause general mayhem as a way of life. Some of my friends and colleagues, distinguished academics, never went back. That culture of chronic instability would become ingrained in the institution in its various forms, whether as the Ga-Rankuwa campus of the University of Limpopo (2005) or since 2015 as a fully-fledged higher education institution.
I asked senior journalists why this ongoing crisis does not enjoy high-level coverage, given its hugely significant consequences for public health. They shrug and promise to investigate. There are two reasons, I suspect, for the media’s inattention. The one is that the disruption and instability have become so commonplace that nobody really cares. SMU has become the Eskom of higher education — eventually you resign yourself to the crisis and try to live with it...