Court rules in NUL student’s favour
HIGH Court judge Justice ‘Maseshophe Hlajoane has ordered the National University of Lesotho (NUL) to publish examination results it withheld for its student, Tholoana Matobo, for allegedly violating examination rules.
The judge also reviewed and set aside NUL Vice-Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao’s decision to find Ms Matobo guilty of examination misconduct.
However, in her ruling on Thursday, Justice Hlajoane refused to order the university to confer Ms Matobo a Bachelors of Commerce degree she was studying for, saying it was the university’s prerogative and not that of the courts of law.
This was after the judge on Monday reserved judgment on the case to Thursday after Ms Matobo’s lawyers urged the court to make a ruling before yesterday’s graduation ceremony.
Ms Matobo had been found guilty of examination misconduct by the university after she entered the examination room with what were deemed suspicious writings on her calculator. She was ordered to repeat the subject in question.
However, on 9 September this year, she filed an urgent application seeking an order reviewing, correcting and setting aside NUL Vice-Chancellor Professor Nqosa Mahao’s decision to find her guilty of examination misconduct.
She also sought an order directing the vice-chancellor and NUL to publish her academic results for the academic year 2015/16 and confer upon her the degree.
Ms Matobo had explained in her affidavit what happened until she lodged an application.
“On the 7th May 2016, I sat for final examination in course ACC 467. Just as the examination was about to start, I was approached by one of the invigilators who requested me to hand over my student card and calculator. I did comply and gave him the requested items.
“He inspected them briefly and told me to see him after writing the examination. He then retained both my student card and calculator cover and left.
“I continued with the examination and thereafter I approached the concerned invigilator who then told me that there were suspicious writings on my calculator and the matter will be reported to my faculty for appropriate action.”
He further said the invigilator told her to write a report to apologise and she complied.
But she said she could not access her results when they were published on 22 June 2016.
“On the 29th June 2016 I went to Roma and made inquiries at the Faculty office about my results.
“I was told that my academic results were being withheld as there was a pending disciplinary hearing against me and that I would be given full details about the said hearing in due course,” she explained.
She said on 5 July 2016 she received a telephone call from one Dr Thetsane who is the Head of the Department of Business Administration in the Faculty of Social Sciences telling her to report to her office the following day without explaining the purpose of the meeting.
“On the 6th July 2016 I did report to the office of Dr Thetsane as she had instructed.
“I found her in the company of Messrs Bukenya and Khomokhoana who are both lecturers in the Faculty of Social Sciences.
“Dr Thetsane informed me that I was being charged with examination malpractice and that I should give an account of all that transpired during the sitting of an examination in the course ACC 467.
“I did give an account similar to what I have stated in the preceding paragraphs herein.
“I was then asked a few questions and thereafter told that I would be advised of the outcome by the Academic Office soon,” she narrated.
She also said she had repeatedly called the academic office only to be told that the matter was still being attended to.
Ms Matobo said on 12 August she went to the university to confront the academic office about the matter.
“At the Academic Office I was given a letter to the effect that I have been found guilty of contravening Rule 4.4 read with Rule 4.14 of the Rules for Conduct of Examinations and that the 1st Respondent (Vice-Chancellor) has accordingly inter alia, decided that I be rusticated from the university,” she explained.
She also said on 6 September 2016 she received another letter “and I was now being told to repeat course ACC 467.”
She is now seeking the NUL decision to be reviewed and set aside stating “I was never formally given any charge and/or details thereof; as already stated. I was only called to the office of the Head of Department where I was informed that I was being charged with examination malpractice.
“I was not given an opportunity to prepare for the hearing, let alone being advised of my right to be represented by a fellow student as such a hearing.
“I was informed on the 5th June 2016 to report to the Head of Department on the 6th June 2016 without any further details being given.
“There was no evidence presented against me to support the contravention of the said Rules 4.4 and 4.14 of the Rules for Conduct of Examinations.”
She alleged the Head of Department and the entire panel did not have authority to preside over allegations of misconduct.
Ms Matobo said the Head of Department and the panel acted as both the adjudicator and prosecutor in the hearing.
“In the circumstances, I humbly submit that the alleged hearing against me was both procedurally and substantively unfair.”