Botswana reopens after exam uproar shutdown

January 3, 2003

Botswana's only university will reopen on January 6 after disruption to examinations by unruly students forced it to close early for the holidays.

Most students were given only a few hours' notice that they had to leave, but graduate students were allowed to stay until the scheduled closure for the Christmas holidays.

The administration blamed the students, saying "chaos reigned". But students and staff claimed the examination timetable was fundamentally flawed. Among the problems were 99 students scheduled to take an examination in a lavatory, duplicated times, midnight schedules and 900 students expected to take an exam in a room that holds a maximum of 350.

The university's problems began with the across-the-board introduction of semesterisation last August. Although it had been planned for a number of years, a phased or year-by-year implementation was rejected.

Students sought a court ruling to postpone the exams, but the high court ordered that they should proceed and issued detailed instructions on how timetable flaws should be overcome.

The high court also ordered students to end a boycott, but lecturers said they would not grade exams if students took them.

The students could have been found in contempt for disrupting the examinations after a court had ordered them to sit them, but the university avoided an escalating confrontation by suspending the exams and closing the university.

University lawyer Parks Tafa labelled the students prima donnas and spoilt brats. The university said it would identify the culprits who had chased students out of exam rooms but it has so far failed to do so.

It intends to hold exams in early January and to reschedule the second semester.

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