Universities soldier on

2016-09-28 06:00

SEVERAL universities across the country have elected to remain closed on Monday (26/09) following uncertainty over ongoing fee protests.

Three petrol bombs were found on the University of the Witwatersrand’s (Wits) Braamfontein Campus over the weekend.

Wits, the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth, were expected to remain closed on Monday.

Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said on Sunday (25/09) that the institute’s senior executive team would meet on Monday to consider its options.

They were hopeful that the year’s academic programme would be completed. Where necessary, contingency plans would be formulated to ensure this.

Patel said police were investigating the petrol bombs found on campus on Saturday.

Insurance companies had already replaced windows and doors damaged during protests last week, Patel said.

Students across the country demonstrated last week, calling for the immediate implementation of free quality education.

The recent wave of protests Z some violent Z were in reaction to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande’s announcement on Monday, 19 September, that universities could hike their fees by up to 8% for next year.

Poor students would not have to pay any fee increase.

Patel said between 200 to 800 students were involved in protests at Wits. A total of 33 of them were arrested and released last week. The university has 36 600 students and 5 000 staff.

She said that the university was facing a “backlash” from non-protesting students, staff, and alumni, who wanted to get on with their work. Wits was determined to cater to the needs of this “silent majority”.

“We are extremely concerned about the willingness of some students and academics to sacrifice Wits and the future of our students for a political fight that is truly meant to be directed elsewhere,” the university said in a separate statement issued on Sunday.

According to the statement, posted on the university’s website, police should be blamed for the lack of control of violence during protests.

“In most societies, appropriately trained police will address the situation in a non-violent way. We cannot rely on the response of the police in our country and this is the primary problem.”


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