Monday, March 8, 2021

Suspended students win case against ABM University College

Francistown High Court Judge, Barnabas Nyamadzabo, on Monday ruled in favour of four ABM University College students who were suspended by the institution last year.

The students, Onkgopotse China Mogende, Tshepo Majaye, Pearl Ojahilwe and Oratile Khuwa who are all members of the Student Representative Council (SRC) were suspended by the institution last year after boycotting classes in protest against the quality of courses that are offered at the institution.

They had also demanded to know if ABM University College had partnered with the UK based institution, Ruskin College as it had pledged to the students.

The school management then resolved to suspend the four students on the basis that they were influencing other students to boycott classes and causing unrest in the institution.

The students then served an urgent application seeking the institution to lift their suspension and interdiction pending their review application which is before the court.

They had also sought an order from court against the Department of Tertiary Education Finance (DTEF) to reinstate their allowances which were terminated from December last year up to January this year.

ABM was cited as first respondent while DTEF is the second respondent. However DTEF did not oppose the urgent application.

During trial their lawyer, Keneilwe Modise of Legal Guard had pleaded with the court to lift the suspension and reinstate the students so that they could register their modules well on time with other students pending their review application.

She further contended that the students were never afforded a fair hearing by the management before they were suspended.

On the other hand the respondent’s lawyer, Emang Gadise argued in her submissions that there was no need to treat the matter as urgent as three out of the four students had failed 60 percent their course work and the re-take would only be available in August this year.

“I do not see why this matter should be treated as urgent because three out of four students failed 60 percent of their course work last year and the re-take for the failed courses will only be available in August. Even if they can be reinstated only one student would be eligible to register. They should just wait for the review application,” she said.

She further said that the students were afforded a fair hearing because they were written a letter by the school management asking them to attend a disciplinary hearing to show cause why they should not be suspended or expelled for their behavior but they failed to do so.
 
Delivering his verdict on Monday, Justice Nyamadzabo endorsed the urgent application saying that the first respondent failed to convince the court why the matter should not be treated as urgent.

“The respondent contended that there is no need to treat the matter as urgent mainly because three out of the four students have failed 60 percent of their course work last year which I do not dispute. However they were some students at the institution who failed more than 60 percent of their modules last year according to the results slips tendered by the applicants before court and were allowed to register during the beginning of this year contrary to what the first respondent has said. The respondent failed to refute these documents,” he said.

Justice Nyamadzabo also said that he found no harm which the first respondent would suffer if the students are allowed to register their modules pending the review application.

The judge also said that there is not enough evidence to suggest that there was fair hearing.

He said that although written and oral communication is allowed by the law, the respondent did not clearly state when the applicants should have attended the disciplinary hearing.

“I therefore dismiss the points of law raised by the attorney for the first respondent with costs pending the review application that challenges the suspension and expulsion of the students. I also order that their allowances should be credited into their bank accounts,” said Nyamadzabo in conclusion.

In a separate interview with The Telegraph after the ruling, the applicant’s lawyer, Modise said that the decision of the court to endorse the urgent application is a big achievement as it will allow the students progress in their academic work.

“The decision by the institution to suspend the students in the first place was flawed because they were never afforded a fair hearing. However that will be raised in the review application. I am happy that the court ordered that they should go and register so that they progress with their academic work,” said a clearly elated Modise.

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