By Kate Douglas
Being sick at Rhodes is a pain but unavoidable (excuse the pun). It seems that when a bug goes around, the whole of Grahamstown is sniffing and coughing. As most of us live in res, or a digs which could do with a serious sterilisation, we know how disease spreads. Whether it is because Grahamstown has crazy weather changes or because there is just too much saliva- swapping, when one person gets sick, we all do. The University should get this.
But they don’t. The policy is that if you are sick, you have to get an LOA on that day. For the majority of students who are without transport, this means walking up a monster hill to the San. Now, what I’ve never understood is how you are expected to be able to walk to the San when you are too sick to go to lectures or tutorials. The other option is to go to the private doctors in town. But you’ll be charged a small fortune for a piece of paper stating what you already knew: you are sick and should be in bed till you recover.
There are other options. Res students can get an LOA from their house warden if clearly sick and if one collapses in a public area then an ambulance may take you to the nearest hospital. But most of the time, students have to walk to the San when ill. It’s cruel. Being made to leave your bed when your body is plagued with sickness and being forced out into public to desperately protect your subjects from ‘DP withdrawal’, is just plain cruel. The worst must be to suffer from diahorrea. I can only imagine how horrible it must be to walk, sphincter clenched, up the hill to the San, praying that the dam wall holds. I know of someone who decided that it wasn’t worth leaving his res with diahorrea, and so accepted that he would miss a tutorial and lose his DP. To him, shitting himself in a public place was just too much to ask. It’s a load of crap (pun intended).
I understand that students lie. Therefore, I am not surprised that students fake illness and try to abuse the system. But I still feel horrified for the truly sick people out there who are treated as liars because they belong to (let’s be honest) an insane student body. The worst is when I hear that students are trying to get leave after losing a parent or sibling and are told they need to provide a death certificate first. Imagine trying to go home so that you can attend a loved one’s funeral and first having to provide a death certificate to a department who needs to be slapped with sensitivity. I have heard two cases where the Journalism department has done this to their students and I am sure many departments do the same. It’s important, you see, that you make a student call their mother, asking her to fax over a copy of her husband’s death certificate so that you have evidence that the student isn’t trying to pull a fast one on you. This is not something that can be done at a later stage, when the pain and shock has subsided slightly.
It makes me sick to hear this happen to fellow students. It really does.