Health department shuts down Limpopo Nursing School

The department of health closed the Limpopo Nursing School campus officially as from April 20.

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) threatened to get an interdict against the implementation of a bursary scheme, instead of the stipends as promised by the department of health, should they not keep to contracts with protesting student nurses at the campuses of the college, Bosveld Review reports.

This is according to Jacob Molepo, Denosa provincial organiser, who spoke to BONUS in an exclusive interview.

READ MORE: Students of Mpumalanga College of Nursing have stopped classes

First-year nursing students, this year’s February intake, are not paid the stipends as was advertised in brochures last year when the department canvassed students to apply as nurses.

Some 147 first-year nurses have not been paid since February, and the department is allegedly trying to convert the students to accept a bursary system. The students, mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds, however, do not have money to buy food or study material.

Student nurses at the Limpopo College of Nursing in Sovenga, Giyani and Thohoyandou, with some working at the Mankweng and Pietersburg provincial hospitals, have been on a strike since last week Wednesday, not attending any classes or practicals.

The students said they have no other choice but to strike as their living conditions, in both male and female residences, are less than satisfactory.

“Bushes are growing right up to the residences which is unsafe as it provides hiding place for snakes,” one of the striking nurses said, adding there were no cleaners or general workers employed at the college.

“The sanitation is also in a dire state as the male and female residences each only has two operational toilets. The administration and college are affected too as there are puddles of sewage everywhere. Toilets are blocked as there are many days on which the colleges don’t have water at the premises.

“On top of all this the stipend for students has not been paid with some who were paid only receiving R5 000 instead of R7 000 as agreed upon.”

Students said they reported their grievances to managers at the college numerous times but nothing has been done to alleviate their problems.

Molepo told BONUS the students have voiced their frustration with Denosa and they found their complaints to be grounded.

“The first-year students who started their studies in February are living from hand-outs by the tutors as they have not received stipends.

“The students also haven’t received uniforms as was agreed upon in the brochure. The nurses in Sekhukhune and Waterberg, those living at the Thohoyandou and Giyani campuses, have the same problems; the sewage problem at Giyani is especially bad. All the college’s buildings are old and dilapidated and no maintenance is being done,” Molepo added, saying the grass and bushes were overgrown, with cars being unable to reach the Waterberg college due to the overgrowth.

Except for the poor accommodation and sanitation, other students who failed the October exams had their stipends frozen and not yet reinstated, or increased to the next level, after they passed and were promoted.

Molepo said Denosa requested a meeting with the MEC and HOD of the department for Tuesday, April 24, but by Monday they had still to receive a response.

“They should give the first-year students stipends as promised and put them on the Integrated Human Resource, Personnel and Salary System [Persal]. Maybe change the next year’s intake to bursaries and clearly stipulate what it entails in the brochures.

“If they do not respond to our grievances, we are willing to go to the High Court to get an interdict to prevent the department from implementing the bursary system,” Molepo said.

The department, in a statement sent by Niel Shikwambana, said the key issue of the protests was the issue of stipends, and they wish to reiterate that the department had taken a decision that from this financial year it would only give nursing students a bursary which will cover tuition, accommodation, meals and books.

“This is in line with the department’s turnaround strategy which, among others, is aimed at cutting costs which is deemed wastage.”

Shikwambana said the money saved could be redirected to other needs such as awarding additional bursaries and hiring of post-community serving nurses.

He added the department is finalising processes to pay the three months’ allowance meant for books, saying the department dispatched a team to do assessments to infrastructure, water, security and sanitation issues.

He added that contractors will be on site soon to assume their appointed duties.

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