PMB colleges in flames

2013-04-25 00:00

ALL classes at Umgungundlovu FET colleges have been cancelled until further notice after protest action at Msunduzi and Northdale campuses brought the campuses to a standstill yesterday morning.

In the strike by students, 26 were arrested.

Chaos broke out at around 8 am when students at the FET colleges went on the rampage.

At the Msunduzi campus, they smashed the library’s sliding door, poured petrol through it and set fire to the library.

They also burnt a car and emptied bins around the campus, littering the college.

At the Northdale campus about 500 students were burning tyres, preventing the free flow of traffic and causing a disturbance, police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said.

The police warned strikers to stop, but they were unruly.

At the Msunduzi Campus, about 150 students broke windows and set alight an FET vehicle parked on the premises.

“Police at Northdale campus warned the strikers to stop. However, they continued. Police were then forced to arrest 26 students. They face charges of public violence, malicious damage to property, and obstruction of traffic,” Jeevan said.

The suspects will appear in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court today.

Later, disgruntled part-time students complained that they knew nothing about the violence and the cancellation of classes.

A stranded part-time human resources student said those who were not present when the protest action occurred had not informed about the situation.

“I’m concerned because we’re starting our exams next month,” the student, who did not want to be named said.

A part-time student in public management said she paid R5 520 a semester and was not happy that the gates were closed.

Communication student Sam Molefe said management should have at least sent them e-mails during the day to inform them that classes has been abandoned.

Another student who asked not to be named said they were supposed to strike on Monday, but it was postponed to yesterday.

“When I arrived this morning we were told that the strike was going ahead and we were locked inside the campus when they started burning tyres,” she said, adding that some students were injured when they tried to limb the fence while running from the police.

However, a paramedic said that they were on standby and that he was unaware of any injuries.

Umgungundlovu SRC president Thulani Dlamini said the problem was one of overcrowding in the hostels, and it had been raised with management in 2011. “Our hostels are overpopulated with eight students sharing one room, which is unacceptable for any learning environment.”

Dlamini said they embarked on a strike last year demanding that these concerns be addressed, but they had to cancel it because it was close to exam time.

“In January we waited, thinking that management would address our problems, but it is now April and nothing has been done to change the situation,” he said.

He said students living in private residences were not provided with meals and there was no transport to get to the campus.

“We even requested management to provide buses for those living in the hostels and transport money for those living in their homes, but this has not been done.”

He said they also wanted the college to provide a mobile clinic.

Dlamini said the student leadership opposed the vandalising of college equipment and the burning of classrooms because they belonged to students.

“When the incident happened at the Msunduzi campus I was at the Edendale FET, so we could not be there in time to stabilise the situation when our comrades caused chaos,” he said.

Dlamini said students had given them a mandate, saying they had lost faith in the senior management and wanted the campus to be placed under administration until competent people had been hired to run the FET. He said if their concerns were not addressed then more students would fail because they were hungry or were not provided with transport fees.

FET acting rector Rare Msomi, said he had no comment.

“Thank you very much,” he told The Witness before he hung up.

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