‘We’re affected most’

2015-10-05 11:36
Police watch the gates to a residence at the Pietermaritzburg UKZN campus. (Chelsea Pieterse, The Witness)

Police watch the gates to a residence at the Pietermaritzburg UKZN campus. (Chelsea Pieterse, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - The ongoing sporadic student violence at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) is affecting students more than the administration, believe opposition student bodies.

This is amid rumours of yet another mass student protest expected to take place at all the UKZN campuses on Monday.

UKZN spokesperson Lesiba Seshoko said while they are unaware of today’s rumoured mass protest they will “pull out all the stops” to make sure the students are safe on campus.

“We are going to make sure nobody interrupts lectures. An external mediator has been brought in to help defuse the situation at the university,” said Seshoko.

The wild protest action, which has now become a fixture at the university leading to millions of rands in damages, has often disrupted lectures in past weeks.

The students began to violently object against the cancellation of a fee repayment programme that allowed students to continue studying while they repaid outstanding fees.

The South African Democratic Student Movement (Sadesmo) and Democratic Alliance Students’ Organisation (Daso) have both expressed concerns over the disruptions.

“The university has already said that they will be extending the semester by a week. This ongoing protest action is affecting the students more than the university management,” said Nonkuleko Nkwanyana, Sadesmo national academic officer.

Nkwanyana said her “future was at stake.” “There was a time when a lecturer told us that he was not going to teach us everything, but would only teach us what we needed to know for the exams,” she said.

Daso UKZN chairperson Sibongiseni Ngcobo said: “We condemn the acts of violence by the students. It appears to mostly happen at night and the protesters are usually drunk”.

Ngcobo said the students bore the brunt of the impact from the violence, not the university.

Nomfundo Langa from Westville campus said the most agonising aspect of the protest is the uncertainty of what will happen every day.

Langa, who needs to use campus libraries to access learning resources for her exams, said some students were told on Friday to keep away from campus due to protests that may erupt.

“It is difficult to study and concentrate when you keep looking over your shoulder and are startled at every noise coming from outside,” Langa said.

Students at the Pietermaritzburg campus said they have heard rumours of a “big” student protest that will take place today.

“From what we have heard is that the Durban campus will start striking on Monday. We will only know how it will affect the Pietermaritzburg campus at a later stage but usually once Durban starts then it is only a matter of time before Pietermaritzburg kicks off,” said student Byrone Athman.

A Pietermaritzburg campus student who asked only to be referred to as Keagan, who lives off campus said:

“My parents and I have looked at other universities to transfer to. These strikes are such a disruption for me.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  protest  |  ukzn

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