UKZN to stage protest

2014-02-03 00:00

STUDENTS at the Howard College Campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal will stage a peaceful protest today “to rescue the credibility of the institution”.

A statement issued yesterday by Local Students Representative Council said both SRC and non-SRC members have been instrumental in planning the protest. The students say they have 16 grievances with the university management.

In Durban, higher education and training minister Blade Nzimande is expected to meet with student unions and the vice-chancellor of the Durban University of Technology today to resolve the ongoing strike.

The South African Student Congress (Sasco) provincial secretary Koloba Ntshangase told The Witness yesterday that the congress was looking forward to meeting with Nzimande as there were more issues to be addressed — not only in DUT, but also at UKZN.

“Two weeks ago, we were made aware of accommodation and funding issues at UKZN. This goes to show that there’s a crisis in the province’s tertiary education institutions. Call us what you like, but we won’t sit back and watch while students’ rights are violated,” said Ntshangase.

Since last week, the university has been deserted after a protest over the new National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

On day one of the strike, students were chased out of lecture halls. A security guard was injured during a scuffle.

The guards fired paintballs at the students and chased them outside the gates. Undeterred, the students danced, sang struggle songs and threw stones at the guards.

After the unrest, the university responded by suspending its full academic programme until further notice and informed all students to vacate their rooms by no later than midday on Thursday. Both residents on and off campus were locked down.

The cause of the strife is the new way the financial aid scheme is run. But the SRC said it is also irked that thousands of students will not be funded this year. DUT and Emfolozi FET College are using the new system.

Professor Ahmed Bawa, DUT vice-chancellor and principal, at the time had said, “We are working hard and around the clock to get the university back to normality.”

He said DUT has unblocked 4 600 returning students so they can register and access financial aid despite their student debt being R155 million as of last month.

Ntshangase said he was aware of the meetings between the SRC and the vice-chancellor Bawa, but that there was no agreement reached. He said Nzimande’s visit to the univer­sity was to intervene in the matter.

Nzimande’s publicist, Brown Maaba, confirmed that the minister was coming to DUT today to try and resolve the issue between the university and the students.

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