Now NWU joins student protests

Poster for the Reform Puk March. Picture: Twitter/ReformPUK
Poster for the Reform Puk March. Picture: Twitter/ReformPUK

The #ReformPuk student movement at the Potchefstroom campus of North-West University (NWU) protested outside a university council meeting in Sandton on Friday. They were demanding parallel-medium English classes from next year, the admission of more black students, more black lecturers and an end to outsourcing.

Two prominent members of the group, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said they were forced to leave their residences two weeks ago and stay at a lecturer’s home after receiving death threats from an anonymous male caller.

A student said: “About two weeks ago, we received a phone call from an unknown number offering us R80 000 each to abandon the #ReformPuk movement, or we would be killed.”

The lecturer, whose name is known to City Press, confirmed that the students were staying with her.

The #ReformPuk group claimed that at a meeting with management last month, they were invited to attend the council meeting, but the invitation was later withdrawn.

But university spokesperson Louis Jacobs rubbished the claim, saying no commitment had been made.

“There has been no formal invitation; there has been no verbal invitation to see the council. On November 17, they were told council was not a consultative body and they would not be granted an audience with them as a result.”

Black students on campus told City Press they were not welcome.

“We are not heard on this campus; we live separately to our white counterparts. There is no interaction between us and them. The SRC has been furious with our decision to go ahead with this movement,” said one.

The group also said translation devices used during lectures were ineffective.

“Sometimes, translators do not show up and we sit through a lecture without understanding anything. The translators are not properly equipped to deal with all the subject matter; they do not know the jargon for the courses,” said one of 15 students who spoke to City Press.

Meanwhile, members of the #FeesMustFall movement in the Western Cape have vowed to return during next year’s registration period if their demands were not met.

Students from the universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch, the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) have vowed to disrupt the 2016 registration process.

At Stellenbosch on Tuesday, private security guards pepper-sprayed students after an address by human resources head Tobie de Coning. After that, university vehicles were torched and a fire truck was pelted with stones. Police responded with rubber bullets and 18 students and workers were arrested.

CPUT and UWC ended their academic years this week.

Alternative venues were arranged for final-year students to write exams, but exams were cancelled for first- and second-year students. All students were asked to leave the residences.

Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said there were contingency plans for the registration period.

UCT spokesperson Pat Lucas said: “We’ve increased our security staff contingent this month, and if we feel it necessary for registration in February, we will do so.”

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