‘Students feel ignored’

2015-10-10 09:11
Red Ants charge demonstrators during protests at the University of Durban Westville.

Red Ants charge demonstrators during protests at the University of Durban Westville. (Ian Carbutt)

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Pietermaritzburg - Pinning the blame for the recent student unrest on the new University of KwaZulu-Natal vice-chancellor Albert van Jaarsveld would be unfair, said political analyst Xolani Dube.

Van Jaarsveld assumed his duties in February and soon afterwards students went on the rampage, protesting over issues relating to National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) and student accommodation.

Less than six months later, the university has experienced violent protests which broke out last month and have dragged on for over four weeks.

Students have caused millions of rands in damage to university property.

Although the main focus in the students’ memorandum was on the Registration Appeals Committee (RAC) process, the issues relating to Nsfas and student accommodation still formed part of the grievances.

Dube said even under the management of previous vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba, violent protests were a regular fixture at the university.

Dube said the reason for the continuation of protests year in and year out was management’s failure to deal with the issues raised by students.

“It is a clear indication that executive management and Nsfas are not learning from previous years. Management must deal with reality.”

With students’ representative council (SRC) elections around the corner, Dube said he did not see anything untoward with the timing of the students’ protest.

“I know people like to link the strike with the SRC elections. Look, it is normal for students to strike for what they believe in. They do not only strike at the end of the year, they also strike at the beginning of the year,” he said.

“It’s not like Sasco, Sadesmo and other students’ bodies are fighting each other. The students are united in this.”
The South African Democratic Students’ Movement, Democratic Alliance Students’ Organisation and Economic Freedom

Fighter Students Command all supported the strike at UKZN.

In the past years, UKZN has seen protest action in August, September and October.

Provincial South African Student Congress (Sasco) secretary Phinda Mofokeng concurred with Dube that the strike had not been motivated by the upcoming SRC elections.

“Those issues we are talking about are five years old. We have been talking about them. It’s not like we are bringing them up for the first time,” said Mofokeng.

UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the university could not set a date for the SRC elections because of the student unrest.

Dube said the reasoning behind the students deciding to strike before the end of the year were justified.
“They are preparing for next year to make sure that they have a smooth start,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn  |  student protests

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