Campus no-go zones

2014-02-25 00:00

LECTURES were cancelled at two Durban tertiary institutions yesterday as four students were arrested for protests against financial policies.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville and Durban University of Technology’s City Campus became no-go zones yesterday.

At the Westville campus, hundreds of non-protesting students stood outside the library and canteen.

They took pictures with their smartphones as a handful of protesters chanted slogans and danced.

The Witness has learnt that about six lecture halls were locked by students barring lecturers from using them for teaching.

Security guards had formed a human chain with police as they tried to calm the situation down.

But things turned unpleasant when the security guards fired rubber bullets causing many to run for cover. A library had to be shut down due to the strike.

Police arrested four Student Representative Council members.

South African Students’ Congress provincial chairperson Dumo Ntyin­kala said there are about 3 000 returning UKZN students who qualify for financial aid but who were not allowed to register due to financial constraints.

The university’s registration closed on Friday, and Sasco has since called on the university to extend their registration date.

In an open letter written by the SRC, they have accused the Vice Chancellor Professor Malegapuru William Makgoba of turning a blind eye to the students’ cries.

“Students currently have memories of fear, indifference, and lack of sympathy, neglect and anger with the management you lead … You have insisted on engaging SRC members albeit at a distance in most cases. Your absent presence has been highly felt; the ship has hit an iceberg,” the letter read.

At DUT, hundreds of students marched from the ML Sultan Campus to the Steve Biko Campus and then the City Campus.

Professor Ahmed Bawa, vice-chancellor and principal at the Durban University of Technology, said he had not received a memorandum of demands from the SRC, but has received a list of concerns relating primarily to financial aid issues for returning students.

The students’ gripe is with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.

UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the institution had over the years awarded substantial financial aid to deserving students who meet the academic requirements of the various degree programmes.

“In supporting students to gain access to quality education, the university provides assistance to financially disadvantaged students through loans, bursaries and scholarships.

“Bursary funds are received from NSFAS, external sponsors and deceased estates.

“In 2014, UKZN allocated R260 million from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to fund approximately 6 500 students,” he said.

Seshoka said 39 631 students have registered at the university across the four colleges. “Registration with the exception of postgraduate research students is now closed.”

Graphic design student Jed Kenny said a student came up to them and kicked them out of the campus. “They told us to go home. It’s irritating and frustrating because we have no idea why they are fighting,” Kenny said.

Bawa said they lost some lecture time in the faculties of Health Sciences, Accounting and Informatics as well as Management Sciences.

“Strikes remain a concern for us as a university because of their effect on the academic calendar, but we remain committed to ensuring that the academic calendar is not compromised again,” he added.

Lectures have not been suspended and are expected to resume today.

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