DUT students pin hopes on Nzimande visit

2010-01-22 00:00

MINISTER of Higher Education Blade Nzimande­’s promised visit to the troubled Durban University of Technology (DUT) has become the students’ only hope in resolving the issues that continue to plague the university, according to a student leader.

Classes have not resumed for the year, yet DUT has already had to shut down operations after failed talks over issues that students say are spilling over from last year.

Mfanafuthi Ngwabe, president of the Student Representative Council (SRC), said student leaders delayed their departure at the end of last year in order to try to resolve the issues, which have to do with accommodation and financial aid.

Again, they returned early this year so that students would not have to face the issues when they came back to campus.

But Ngwabe said school management has stubbornly refused to meet them. It has taken a protest action for management to act, he said.

“This actually leads me to conclude that the vice-chancellor is not concerned with this institution … this protest hurt us, as students, more.

“These strikes, now and again, are likely to eventually tarnish this institution’s reputation and our qualifications won’t count for anything.”

Ngwabe said they want residences in the market area to be closed down because the hustle and bustle of traders is not conducive to learning.

“You can’t expect a university student to [learn] with a bar right outside the door.

“Many of the students who will stay … are new and from the rural areas. How are they expected to survive?”

He said another recurring issue is that of students who are turned back for not having settled last year’s fees.

Some of them are students whose parents have promised to settle the outstanding fees but have since died or lost their jobs, Ngwabe said.

Others are students who have approached the national financial aid office for assistance after running into difficulty in keeping up payments.

He said these students were promised help by the finance office and were made to fill in loan agreement forms, only to be told later there was no money left.

“We sat with management today and yesterday. On some issues we see the light, but on others there has been no progress.”

Ngwabe believes Nzimande is their only hope.

“We can’t be speaking about the same issues all the time. The university must come up with a plan.”

The university’s acting communication manager, Bhekani Dlamini, said management heads decided to temporarily suspend registration and all related pro­cesses with immediate effect because of concerns about the safety of staff and students.

Talks are expected to resume again today, but registration is expected to resume on Monday.

While Pietermaritzburg campuses don’t appear to have been affected by the protest, Ngwabe said the issues are across the board.

Meanwhile, Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) has reported a smooth and trouble-free registration process.

MUT is one of the institutions that is regularly associated with such disruptions.

Bheki Hlophe, the publications officer, said registration started last Monday for first-year students, and this week returning students will be registered.

The B-tech students will start registering next Friday for classes to resume at the beginning of next month.

Registration fees were increased by 8,5% this year. Students doing semester courses will now pay R1 000 while registration for annual programmes is R2 000.

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