Protesting Stellies medical students demand counselling after they were 'manhandled'

2016-09-20 18:28
A protesting Stellenbosch student (Tammy Petersen, News24)

A protesting Stellenbosch student (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - University of Stellenbosch medical and health sciences students claimed they were manhandled during a protest that led to the closure of the Tygerberg campus earlier on Tuesday.

In a meeting on campus with representatives from management, students said they were subjected to rough treatment by security personnel and were also intimidated by a man taking photographs of them from as early as 06:00.

They said they had been hurt physically and were traumatised by the day's events.

Students at the campus in Bellville said the university would have to make sure there was counselling for those traumatised by the confrontation.

By midday unarmed security guards stood at the entrance to the campus but otherwise the campus was peaceful.

University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said protesters had earlier barricaded the entrance to the Tygerberg campus.

He did not have further details of the Tygerberg incident, but said that campus would remain closed for the rest of Tuesday.

List of demands

In a statement the Tygerberg student representative council said it was opposed to any fee increase and implored the university to demand the immediate removal of caps on the various subsidies made available to Stellenbosch University and the immediate expansion of funding to the institution to cover any shortfall caused by freezing fees and free education for the poor.

They asserted their right to protest and called on the university to withdraw the increased security measures and stop wasting money on these services.

They asked university management to not exclude students in 2017 if they can't afford their fees.

The students said they did not accept statements by universities that fee-free education was not feasible.

"Statements of this nature are a paltry attempt to absolve universities of their responsibility to exhaust every avenue to secure additional funding to ensure South Africa's continued academic excellence, global relevance and the provision of free education for all.

"These avenues include, but are not limited to, the redirection of restricted funds, securing funding from civil society groups and, most importantly, increasing pressure on national government to double-down on its investment in the future of our country."

They had also opened a Gmail account for students to send photographs or video footage of themselves being attacked by security staff so that they can present it as proof to university management.

Meanwhile, Viljoen said a group of between 20 to 25 students were walking around the Stellenbosch campus entering classrooms setting off fire alarms and disrupting teaching.

Counselling, medical attention

"This is unacceptable and is infringing on students' right to study," Viljoen said.

"The staff member was trying to help with a bursary application for today's closing date and the staffer was assaulted by protesting students. Charges will be laid with police."

Students are protesting following Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande's announcement of the fee structure for 2017 on Monday.

He said poor students and those whose homes have an income of less than R600 000 will, for a second year, not have their fees increased.

Those whose parents earn more than R600 000 a year have to wait for individual universities to announce their increases.

Nzimande wants the increases to be capped at 8%.

In the meantime, Stellenbosch University was publicising the numbers of dedicated lines for counselling and medical attention.

They are:

- Counselling on Stellenbosch and Tygerberg campuses: 082 557 0880;

- Medical assistance at Stellenbosch campus: 076 431 0305;

- Medical assistance at Tygerberg campus: 021 938 9590

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