What students want

2019-02-06 15:31
A gate that was derailed by protesting students at the UKZN campus in Alan Paton Avenue on Tuesday afternoon. In the evening, students blocked Ridge Road with tyres and a couch that they set alight, and stoned cars on Alan Paton Avenue, which was also blocked with burning barricades.

A gate that was derailed by protesting students at the UKZN campus in Alan Paton Avenue on Tuesday afternoon. In the evening, students blocked Ridge Road with tyres and a couch that they set alight, and stoned cars on Alan Paton Avenue, which was also blocked with burning barricades.

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The University of KwaZulu-Natal has been asked by its Student Representative Council (SRC) not to exclude any student for academic reasons.

This is one of the SRC’s demands in a lengthy memorandum submitted to university management on Monday, amid protests erupting across the province’s universities.

UKZN’s SRC has asked for a “special review” process when students face academic exclusion, and has also asked for no financial exclusion of “any kind”.

The SRC’s memorandum demanded:

UKZN to compensate students who lose belongings in break-ins at residences;

The curriculum to be transformed to include getting a driver’s licence;

UKZN to “find another building” to accommodate students now without residence places;

Upgrade infrastructure to accommodate disabled students;

A 50% pay increase for student tutors and mentors;

Students who applied for NSFAS funding to be given monthly meal allowances by UKZN until their NSFAS applications are processed;

Those studying Bachelor of Education to be given a “teaching practice allowance” to be able to travel to schools where they are doing practicals;

UKZN to “intervene” in high cafeteria food prices; and

Printing costs to drop from 48 cents a page to 10 cents a page.

The university’s Pietermaritzburg campus had a heavy security presence on Tuesday, with a private security company’s riot force out in numbers.

UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo said academic activity remained suspended until further notice, and confirmed that a small group of students staged a peaceful protest at the Pietermaritzburg campus on Tuesday.

However, the protests later became more rowdy, and students were burning tyres on Ridge Road in the evening.

Police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said students had also dragged a couch out of a residence onto Ridge Road and set it alight.

Ngobese said the Public Order police had been deployed to disperse the students and monitor the situation.

Students later blocked the busy Alan Paton Avenue with burning barricades and stoned passing vehicles.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and called the fire department to deal with the blazes.

“All five campuses are being monitored by university Risk Management Services,” Zondo said.

Protas Madlala, a political analyst, said the flaring up of student protests likely had to do with the looming elections, saying that they were due to “opportunistic politicking”.

“I’ve never heard, in all my years, of students demanding driver’s licences during protests.

“I believe even if universities would meet their [students’] demands 100%, students will move the goalposts and there will be another issue,” he said.

Madlala said this was all done to the detriment of learning.

Education analyst Professor Kobus Maree, however, implored universities to listen to students, saying students generally did not make noise for no reason. “They are shouting because they feel their voices are not heard,” he said.

The situation was calm at the city’s Durban University of Technology campuses on Tuesday, but there was a police presence outside the Indumiso campus near Edendale in the afternoon.

The Witness understands this was after students began mobilising in the morning.

DUT said the academic programme has been suspended until tomorrow, following “interruptions” that took place on Monday.

“Management received a memorandum from the SRC. Some of the issues raised in the memorandum are funding frustrations by NSFAS, student housing allocations and transport issues.

“DUT management will continuously engage with the SRC over the next two days to try and resolve the issues that have been raised,” DUT said.

Police said the situation across universities was quiet, and they were monitoring the situation.

Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said there was no report of Unisa students being struck by rubber bullets, as had been reported in media on Tuesday. Unisa also said they had not received any such reports.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  ukzn protests

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