Student unrest ‘will continue’

2016-09-01 12:51
Fire fighters battle the blaze that gutted part of the Pietermaritzburg William O'Brien exam hall at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Fire fighters battle the blaze that gutted part of the Pietermaritzburg William O'Brien exam hall at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in the early hours of Wednesday morning. (Chelsea Pieterse)

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Pietermaritzburg - The student unrest at the University of KwaZulu-Natal will continue, student movement South African Students Congress (Sasco) has vowed.

This comes after the William O'Brien exam venue at the Pietermaritzburg campus was set alight in the early hours of Wednesday. It was extensively damaged. Lectures at the campus had just resumed on Monday, after two weeks of disruptions following student protests there.

Sasco in the province has said there will be more protests if management does not give in to the students’ demands. They threatened to mobilise students from other universities to come and support the UKZN students. KZN secretary-general Mduduzi Vilakazi blamed the “negligence” of the university management and the Department of Higher Education and Training for the destruction of property.

“This is a sign that the time for free education is now,” he said, adding the two should have listened to the students’ grievances long before the destruction of property started.

Vilakazi said they will not entertain any fee increase at tertiary institutions in 2017.

“It is high time that education becomes free. The government needs to invest in education. We are sick and tired of being told that there is a skills shortage while nobody is investing in our education,” he said.

Pietermaritzburg campus Students Representative Council (SRC) president Siphelele Nguse said Wednesday morning’s incident had “compromised” their “struggle”.

“Our struggle is not about burning down buildings. It is about free education. It will be impossible to get that free education if there are people who will decide to torch university property.

“The SRC knows nothing about this. We condemn this and we are saying that someone who did this must be arrested and face the music,” he said, adding the SRC would meet to discuss “the way forward”.

“This has put us in an awkward position. We are losing public support and we need to discuss whether we should continue with the protest or not. Our protest was genuine. The SRC never gave a mandate to anyone to go and burn down university property,” he said.

The Department of Higher Education and Training remained mum on the 2017 fee increment and the current student unrest on Wednesday.

Minister Blade Nzimande had previously said he would make the announcement on the fee increment in August, which ended on Wednesday. Attempts to get comment from his office were unsuccessful.

Department spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyana did not answer his phone or reply to e-mail and SMS queries sent to him.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  education  |  university fees  |  university protests

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