Same fights each year — we’re fed up, say students

2011-03-04 00:00

STRIKING students from the KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College are fed up with having to protest over the same issues year after year.

Intimidation and damage to property by students have been reported since the start of the week-long illegal protests on Monday.

The student representative council told The Witness yesterday that the institution’s management is not they enemy, but they are angry at having to address the same problems every year.

“Often at times when we strike, people view us as the enemy and think we are just being excitable. But these are real people with real issues,” said Sphiwe Mkhize, the SRC’s head of finance and projects.

“… We have a situation where for the past 10 years students have been protesting over the same issues. Time is spent on meetings but never to discuss tangible solutions.”

Another long-standing problem is the issue of accommodation. Mkhize said it is not as if students don’t want to look for accommodation, but the campus is in an up-market suburb and they cannot afford to rent digs close to the campus.

The students are proposing that the university leases more buildings to accommodate students. The university is assured of payment since most students receive financial assistance and funding for their digs, they said.

Another bureaucratic problem, according to Mkhize, is the lack of support systems to complement the “robot system”, which is designed to monitor academic progress. Mkhize said that while this system makes sense in theory, many of the students coming from rural areas had neither computers nor libraries at their schools. These students end up being frustrated and failing since they find it challenging to produce assignments on the systems.

He said students don’t believe the university’s claims that there is no money for financial aid because of reports that government receives back unspent monies from universities.

Responding to criticism about the damage to property during the protests, Mkhize said the institution’s risk management services are tasked with monitoring such risks and ensuring they don’t happen.

Second-year student Lusanda Dlamini (19) of Sobantu said the only way to achieve financial independence is by studying with financial assistance. Her extended family relies on her grandmother’s pension. Her mother is unemployed and she has no other means of paying for her education outside of the government loan.

Dlamini’s story is not much different from that of her peers who are part of the protest.


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