Vice-chancellor shut down, booed as Pretoria students join the #FeesMustFall movement

2015-10-21 17:14

Promises to engage and look into students’ concerns by the University of Pretoria vice-chancellor and principal professor Cheryl de la Rey failed to quell fires but instead agitated protesting students who disrupted her address and booed her off the stage earlier today.

The university’s students joined others in the fee protests which spread like wildfire this week.

Protesting students at the University of Pretoria. Pictures: Tebogo Letsie

Just like other universities in at least six provinces, academic activities were expected not to resume at University of Pretoria this week amid the sometime chaotic protests.

Students in Pretoria were protesting against the proposed 6% hike in fees for the 2016 academic year. They were demanding nothing other than a zero percent increase.

Most students said their parents and funders were already struggling with current academic year fees while others were sitting on huge balances from previous years of study.

Students made it clear that the protest would continue until the proposed fee hike “falls” or on agreement that it will not be implemented.

A crowd of more than 3 000 students dressed in ANC and EFF-aligned student structures and party colours converged at the main campus of the university in Hatfield, Pretoria, this morning.

They marched from the main campus to a nearby residence complex with the intention of helping themselves to food at one of the cafeterias, which they found closed.

A while later, students emerged from the back of the building with boxes of snacks, juice and bottles of water, which were handed out before marching through Hatfield amid traffic chaos back to the main campus where De la Rey addressed them.

Students kept chanting “get to the point, get to the point” as she explained to them that their grievances were receiving attention.

Without being specific, she promised that the institution would look into assisting each and every registered student at the university.

The only time they cheered and clapped was when De la Rey promised them that “no student who participate in a peaceful protest would be victimised” but started chanting “fees, fees”, pushing her to talk about the proposed 6% fee hike.

When she did not spoke specifically on the issue, students started singing and chanting slogans, disrupting her address and forcing security personnel to whisk her away.

In a rather different tone, De la Rey said in a statement posted on the university website today: “The University of Pretoria this morning agreed to plans to implement a 6% tuition fee increase for 2016 following the agreement reached with the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr [Blade] Nzimande yesterday.

“To register in 2016 students will be required to pay a registration fee. This registration fee is deducted from the total tuition fees for the year.

“Students whose studies are sponsored by a third party, such as a financial institution or a prospective employer, are exempted from paying the initial fee. Students who qualify for NSFAS funding are also exempted from payment of the fee. The university has since received a memorandum with demands from the students. The executive is currently studying this with a view to giving them a response as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, an announcement was made by student leaders that there would be a night vigil on campus tonight with the protest expected to continue again in the morning.

Read more on:    university of pretoria  |  nsfas

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