Fees Must Fall students say no to UCT Parliament picket

2016-09-22 12:26
Last year's student protests at Parliament. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Last year's student protests at Parliament. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town - UCT has invited academics, students, parents and staff to take part in a picket outside the gates of Parliament on Thursday afternoon.

But students involved in the Fees Must Fall protests say they will not be attending the demonstration, opting instead to discuss their demands and a way forward for the shutdown of the institution.

Vice Chancellor Max Price in a letter to students on Thursday called for the UCT community to assemble at 13:00, where representatives of the university would present a statement to Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.

In the statement, the institution called for the urgent addressing of the "systemic crisis in higher education in SA", while acknowledging that Nzimande's announcement of an 8% fee increase cap was a step in the right direction. 

"However, while the vice-chancellors have acknowledged this important gesture by the minister, it is only an interim measure. We believe that government has not acted decisively to ensure sustainable and adequate funding to address the systemic crisis in the higher education sector. Government has placed an undue burden on students, parents and universities to fund higher education," it reads.

"We continue to support the national call to address the inequitable access to higher education in SA following years of chronic underfunding. We are committed to finding solutions for a sustainable, affordable and equitable higher education sector. Inadequate investment in higher education will continue to have a major, detrimental impact on the development of our country for years to come."

Classes to resume on Monday

According to the statement, the university supported lawful and peaceful protests, while condemning all forms of violence and intimidation.

"As members of the University of Cape Town we appeal to the national government to provide additional funding to sustain the higher education project. [We] demand that a new policy for funding higher education must be in place before the 2017/18 budget speech. If the Judicial Commission cannot achieve this, a special task team must be established to do so. [We] urge all stakeholders to immediately engage in constructive dialogue to address the challenges in higher education."

UCT announced that classes would resume on Monday after the university's senior management team met on Wednesday night.

The university told students that its libraries and study area would be closed, and that the Jammie bus service had also been suspended.

Students began protesting on Thursday, calling for the university to reinstate students who had been suspended, interdicted, or expelled following the Fees Must Fall protests.

They also called for the university to institute a Shackville truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) within this year.

Shack demolition

In February, students erected a shack on upper campus as a symbol of the struggle for student housing and financial exclusions.

The shack was later demolished by security.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the Shackville TRC 2016 campaign said students who were part of the Fees Must Fall movement would not be attending the picket this afternoon.

"Instead conversations will be had at the [Steve Biko Building] occupation concerning violence and conceptualising the conversation around #ShackvilleTRC and a way forward for [the] UCT shutdown and #FeesMustFall."

Meanwhile, students barricaded the entrance to Stellenbosch University's medical school at its Tygerberg campus in Bellville on Thursday morning, university spokesperson Martin Viljoen said.

The entrance was opened and a meeting between the dean and students was scheduled for Thursday morning.

Classes were running as usual at its main campus in Stellenbosch.

Students suspended

The university obtained an interdict from the High Court in Cape Town on Tuesday night ordering 30 students to vacate the Wilcocks Building on the Stellenbosch campus from where they had based their protests.

During protests last year, students renamed the building the Lillian Ngoyi Building.

The students left as ordered, avoiding removal by the sheriff of the court and the police.

The 30 were also interdicted in the interim from reoccupying the building or any other campus building, disrupting the normal activities of the university and from barricading or obstructing entrances.

They were also not allowed to damage property or assault, intimidate or harass anybody.

In addition, the university sent 11 of the students notices of suspension.

The 11 suspended students would face a disciplinary process and would not be not allowed to enter any Stellenbosch University property for the duration of the suspension.

"Students can however appeal this decision which will be considered and decided by the central disciplinary committee," Viljoen said in a statement on Wednesday.

Read more on:    uct  |  parliament  |  cape town  |  university fees  |  university protests

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