Teaching at the Free State School of Nursing in Bloemfontein (FSSON) will be brought to a complete halt and nursing students will not report for duty at hospitals, unless the head of the school’s Bloemfontein campus is removed from her position.
This is a threat made by students from FSSON’s Bloemfontein campus, during a silent picket outside the provincial Health Department’s headquarters on Monday morning.
Approximately 50 fourth year nursing students marched to Bophelo House on Monday morning, and delivered a memorandum to management demanding the suspension of campus head, Maria Leburu.
The demands follow the institution of civil charges Leburu brought against three fourth year students, who allegedly made derogatory remarks about her during previous protest action at the school, in February.
Students allegedly sang songs which infringed on Leburu’s dignity, and she was able to identify three of the students, Ms K Matima , Mrs N Mathopa and Mr AS Mabaso, from video footage of the event.
However, the three’s fellow students believe that Leburu is unfairly targeting these three, and have demanded that she resign from her position, as the institution of these charges constitute a conflict of interest. According to a memorandum handed to senior officials at Bophelo House, Leburu has ” created a toxic environment where the students doubt her impartiality to execute her duties with fairness, diligence and without bias, as well as her failure to adopt the reconciliatory principles well exemplified by her colleagues”.
FSSON SRC Member, Tshepo Seemahale, says students at the institution acted as a collective during the February strike, and they will refuse to let these three individuals be victimised.
“We’ll continue to stay away. We will not go to work, we will not go to school,” he said during a conversation with Voice, outside Bophelo House. “We’ll continue to stay away until charges are dropped, and if they are not dropped, we will gather every day until they hear us.”
Spokesperson for the FS Health Department, Mondli Mvambi says the department has taken note of the students’ grievances, and were at the time of going to press awaiting feedback from the Head of Department, Dr David Motau.
Mvambi says the department had hoped accepting the students’ memorandum would encourage them to disperse and return to their positions at hospitals. However, this did not happen and he feared that the students would be found in contravention of the illegal gatherings act.
97 Community Health Workers are currently awaiting a High Court decision on the legality of their arrest under the same act, after they were found guilty of an illegal gathering outside Bophelo House two years ago. The students, however, say their gathering can’t be considered illegal, as they are peaceful, and simply gathering outside the building in small, separate groups, which does not constitute an illegal gathering.
Mvambi promised that Dr Motau would facilitate a hearing with all the parties, in order to get all sides of the story, and hopefully defuse a potentially protracted strike by the students.