UCT students march to Parliament demanding fees commission report


Students at the University of Cape Town marched to Parliament this afternoon to demand a fees commission report.

The commission on fee-free higher education, headed by judge Jonathan Heher, submitted the report to President Jacob Zuma in August. Zuma promised to study it and release it to the public. However, he has not made any public pronouncements regarding recommendations of the report.

UCT student representative council president Seipati Tshabalala said students demanded a copy of the fees commission report because the university proposed an 8% to 10% fee increases for next year.

“The university fees committee ... said even with 10% the university will run into deficit. I cannot sit in those meetings and agree to that. Obviously this will cause a lot of frustration and anger,” she said.

Tshabalala said students also disrupted lectures ahead of exams expected to take place next month.

University spokesperson Elijah Moholola said: “The University of Cape Town states unequivocally that there has been no decision taken on the 2018 tuition and residence fees. UCT has made an appeal to the Presidency for the release of the fees commission report in order to determine what commitment the government will make towards higher education funding.”

Moholola said the university has had many discussions with various stakeholders, including student representatives and staff.

“However, any figures mentioned during such discussions should not be seen as UCT’s proposed fee increase for 2018,” he said.

Moholola said this morning several protesters attempted to disrupt services on campus and set off several fire alarms.

“We remain deeply concerned about the impact of these disruptions and attempted shutdowns on students’ ability to perform academically and for staff to ensure the continuation of the academic programme. We remain committed to continued engagement in our efforts to resolve issues, but we are deeply concerned about these forced shutdown attempts,” he said.

In light of the disruptions to academic operations on Tuesday, including laboratories that typically house dangerous materials and the indications that there might be more disruptions today, Moholola said the executive made a decision this morning to secure the services of a private security company with the express brief to assist in safeguarding high-risk venues on campus.

“This is a decision that has not been taken lightly, but one that has been fundamentally informed by health and safety considerations for the staff and student community of UCT. The university has obligations in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take steps to ensure that the health and safety of staff and students are not compromised,” Moholola said.

UCT students’ protest follows after students at the University of Free State (UFS) over fee increases.

In a statement, UFS spokesperson Lacea Loader said disruption of academic activities at the UFS started on the morning of Wednesday last week when a group of students blocked the main entrance to the Qwaqwa Campus and handed a memorandum to the campus management.

Academic activities on the Qwaqwa Campus were interrupted, and resumed the next day. On the Bloemfontein campus, disruption of some academic activities occurred after a meeting of students convened by the student representative council. Members of the executive management subsequently met with the Bloemfontein campus student representative council, and a memorandum was handed to the executive management on October 19,” she said.

On Thursday evening, seven students were arrested for arson on the Qwaqwa campus, and four students were arrested on the Bloemfontein campus on Friday last week for contravening the interdict.

Loader said exams continued today without disruptions on the campuses, after commencing on Monday.

UFS student representative council promised to release a statement, but it had not been received at the time of writing.

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