Staff join student protest

2015-10-23 11:45
KZN Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni takes a placard from protesting students and poses for pictures outside the KZN legislature yesterday after hundreds of students marched from UKZN’s Pietermaritzbug campus to the KZN legislature.

KZN Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni takes a placard from protesting students and poses for pictures outside the KZN legislature yesterday after hundreds of students marched from UKZN’s Pietermaritzbug campus to the KZN legislature. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg - University of KwaZulu-Natal lecturers joined hundreds of students who made their way to the provincial legislature yesterday as the “Fees must fall” movement reached Pietermaritzburg.

The march started at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus where students went into lecture rooms and called on other students to join the march.

The students had targeted both the School of Agriculture and the Law and Commerce departments which they said treated themselves as ­“independent campuses”.

An internal document from the ­university said that at about 7 am, about 50 students had gathered and sprayed fire extinguishers.

The document shows that by 9 am the number of protesters had reached 500 and one staff member from the law department was left traumatised and crying after the students threw juice at her.

Some UKZN lecturers and ­maintenance staff then joined the ­protesting students.

“It is our students, it is our country. Everybody needs education because it is liberating,” said Jane Quin, a lecturer in Education and Development.

Lectures were suspended on all five UKZN campuses with spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka saying the university ­respects the rights of students to ­protest in a peaceful manner and to act in accordance with the law.

“Additional security measures have been put in place to monitor the ­situation on all university campuses,” he said.

The protesting students at midday made their way to the Durban University of Technology (DUT) Riverside ­campus but were blocked by police from entering.

DUT shuttle service buses were forced to drop off their passengers at the corner of Boshoff and Woodhouse roads as the students blocked the ­entrance.

After a standoff between police and students, a handful of DUT students joined the protesters as they made their way to the legislature.

Traffic was backed up as students did several sit-downs on their way.

Most motorists appeared to be ­supporting the students as they hooted and cheered them on.

The students were also cheered on by curious onlookers.

Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni, who addressed the students, could barely finish a sentence before students interrupted her.

Nkonyeni startled the protesters by taking one of their placards which read “Fees must fall” and “Blade must fall”, the latter being a reference to Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

Nkonyeni posed with the placard as students took pictures and selfies.

The students had initially demanded that they be addressed by Nzimande.

Nkonyeni told the students “free ­education” was part of the ANC’s ­resolutions.

“Do not sell the ANC to us,” the ­students shouted.

The students gave Nkonyeni until Monday to give them feedback on their demands.

“Next time we are coming here you will not have the opportunity to listen to us or to talk to us,” warned SA Students Congress Umgungundlovu regional secretary Siyabonga Ngubane.

Ngubane said they will be boycotting classes until they “receive a ­communique which says there will be a zero percent fee increase next year”.

“We boycotted our classes not ­because we are criminals. It is because we want to be taken seriously by the universities and the Department of ­Education must intervene.

“We are sick and tired of this system which is chasing away thousands of poor students,” said Ngubane.

BCom student Jacques Wilcock said: “I feel the fee increment is unfair, some people can not really afford no matter what race they are.

“It is only fair that everyone joins the protest.”

TEXT BOX

Several exams were postponed at the Durban University of Technology yesterday as the students joined the nationwide fee increment protest.

Protesting students marched from the ML Sultan Campus to the Steve Biko Campus via the Ritson Road Campus.

“On arrival at the Steve Biko Campus, the protesting students sang and banged on the glass door of the Fred Crookes Sports Centre where students were busy writing their exams,” said spokesperson Alan Khan.

“The protesting students threatened to break down the door of the Sports Centre until the exams were stopped. A decision was made to halt the exams, in the best interests of our students and staff who were in the venue at the time,” said Khan.

Khan said the exams will be rescheduled.

“Earlier this morning (yesterday), the University’s SRC had informed the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Ahmed Bawa, that while there would be protest action, the protest would be non-violent and that there would be no disturbance to the exams. There was minor damage to property,” he said.

Indumiso Campus cafeteria windows were also spray painted with red paint on Wednesday night with the words: “Bawa must fall” and “Fees must fall.”

SRC members could not be reached for comment

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  student protests

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