This is a letter which appared in the Herald of 26 May 2015 in response to the transport issues experienced at NMMU, written by Dr Sibongile Muthwa, DVC Institutional Support at the university.
22 May 2015
Your report, “Students protest over inefficient shuttle service” (Herald, 21 May) is deserving of a response, if only to assure readers that Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) is committed to the welfare of its students.We believe the article may give readers a misdirected view of yesterday’s student march and what the true facts are with regards to the University’s provision of subsidized transport to its students.
Though this was
a student march, the article chose only to reflect the opinions of a political party, a taxi association representative and the transport provider. The voices of the students, who marched to highlight their dissatisfaction over the NMMU student shuttle service - and legitimately so - went completely unheard.
This is disappointing, especially since we encourage our students to take responsibility for issues, and to exercise their civil rights, including that of protesting against injustices.
Be that as it may, NMMU wishes to assure the public – and of course its students - of its commitment in seeking sustainable solutions to the present transport limitations.
At present, NMMU invests more than R15m annually to provide transport to more than 5000 students daily. A fleet of 54 vehicles, including 15-seater taxis, 60-seater busses, 22-seater sprinters and a 28-seater bus, transport students from 6.45am to 10pm between NMMU’s North, South, Second Avenue and Missionvale campuses, and to several off-campus residences across the metro. The shuttle service timetable is aligned to support the academic timetable.
The demand for the service continues to grow.
Originally, NMMU implemented a public transport plan in anticipation of the Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS). It planned to subsidise the students’ bus fares. That the IPTS has not yet come on stream has made the expansion of the NMMU contracted service in a bid to assist off-campus students who cannot afford their own transport, necessary.
Some R6.7m is provided by the NMMU Council for this, with students individually contributing a fee of R234 a year. A further R2.4m is contributed by off-campus residences.
As part of the commitment to contribute to the development of local and small businesses, the University elected to support smaller transport service providers in supplementing its student shuttle service.
Each year, the University reviews its transportation system to ensure that sufficient funds are available to support the growing demand for transport between campuses and from accredited, off-campus accommodation venues throughout the metro.
Each week, representatives of the service providers, the students and NMMU management meet to discuss and address urgent issues, while there is daily quality control and a tracking system in place to monitor the times and schedules of the drivers. As a result of this system and complaints by students in the past, a few drivers have been dismissed. We urge students to bring their complaints, especially those of intimidation and even assault, to management so that we can carry out our own investigations.
But at the same time, we also urge our students to behave responsibly in line with NMMU’s values when they use public transport.
A larger task team consisting of myself, the Acting Dean of Students, other key staff and representatives of both the NMMU student body and the transport service providers has been formed to address the present grievances and to enhance the University’s transport plan going into the future, assessing various scenarios.
We are committed to creating a conducive and supportive teaching, learning and living environment of which student mobility and transport is a part. Without such an environment, student success is not possible.
Dr Sibongile Muthwa
DVC Institutional Support
Tel: +27 (0) 41 504 1111
Fax: +27 (0) 41 504 2574 / 2731
PO Box 77000, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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