Bid for normality at DUT

2014-02-04 00:00

THE Durban University of Technology vice-chancellor wants his students back in their lecture rooms as soon as possible.

Professor Ahmed Bawa and the institution’s student representative council were last night engaged in discussions to resolve the week-long protests.

The university’s authorities closed down the institution indefinitely last week and issued an ultimatum after students started protesting over the new National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Students had to vacate their residences by last Thursday.

Bawa told journalists that their “chief task” is to create safety and peaceful conditions for students and to ensure they have a full and complete academic year.

“We want to reopen tomorrow if we can. At one point we feel confident and we’re engaging … However, if we go beyond four or five days it will put the semester in jeopardy,” Bawa added.

He said his wish is to see every student in a lecture hall this week.

Bawa’s staff is currently re-looking at the academic programme and are currently rescheduling the academic year.

SRC president Ayanda Ngidi said they are eager to resolve the issues before the students return, but added that if they did not find joy in their meetings with management they will be left with no choice but to continue to protest.

However, he told The Witness that it would be wise for the university to go back to normal before the Independent Election Commission opens its final special voter registration weekend on February 8 and 9, so that students can register to vote.

Yesterday, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande was locked in a meeting with both the DUT’s management and Student Representative Council.

Nzimande engaged both parties and he said he hoped that his presence would help in “normalising” the situation and said that protests at DUT have become a “ritual”.

He made a plea to management to engage with students and told students that strikes should always be a last resort.

He said that the NSFAS coffers were insufficient to cover every student but he was proud of government and the amount of money they had put into the financial scheme.

Meanwhile, a handful of University of KwaZulu-Natal Howard College students held a protest on campus yesterday morning.

SRC president Mthobisi Myende raised concerns about “needy” students who did not qualify for NSFAS, housing, postgraduate students’ funding being withdrawn, lack of security, 12% fee increase, amongst others.

UKZN’s spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said that there had been no disruption to the university’s core operations.

This year, UKZN said they have allocated R260 million from NSFAS to fund approximately 6 500 students and this is in addition to about R100 million, made up of university and National Research Foundation.

This money has been allocated for tuition in the form of loans, bursaries and scholarships this year.

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