Exams suspended at eight TVET campuses as negotiations fall flat

About 200 students carried placards and sang as they made their way to the Eastcape Midlands TVET College’s head office in Uitenhage on Monday. (Thamsanqa Mbovane, GroundUp)
About 200 students carried placards and sang as they made their way to the Eastcape Midlands TVET College’s head office in Uitenhage on Monday. (Thamsanqa Mbovane, GroundUp)

Exams at eight Eastcape Midlands TVET College (EMC) campuses were suspended as protest by students entered its second week on Monday, GroundUp reports.

Students say they are unhappy with a policy that required an 80% class attendance rate in order for them to qualify for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) allowances.

Student leaders told GroundUp that they decided to protest when management at the college failed to attend a meeting to discuss their issues. But the college denied the allegation, stating that it was in fact the student leaders who were not cooperating.

College spokesperson Elmari Van de Merwe said that the policy was a direct instruction from the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Seeking an amicable solution

"A meeting between the Student Representative Council and management was scheduled for today, Monday 2 September at 08:30am but was dishonoured by the students. Management is trying to reschedule the meeting to engage on matters and to come up with amicable solutions," she said.

Besides their request to have the policy rescinded, the protesters are demanding that the charges against 22 students, who were arrested during protests last week, be dropped

Police spokesperson in Uitenhage Captain Gerda Swart said that cases of public violence were opened against four students of EMC's Charles Goodyear campus. He said they appeared in the Uitenhage Magistrate's Court on 29 August and were released on R200 bail each. The case was remanded until 18 September.

"We are here to obtain marks, not criminal records"

Meanwhile, 18 other students appeared in the Grahamstown Magistrate's Court. Police Captain Mali Govendar said the accused face charges of public violence, offences relating to the damage of Infrastructure Act, and offences under the Gatherings Act.

On Monday, about 200 students carried placards and sang as they made their way to the college’s head office at the corner of Durban and Cuyler streets in Uitenhage. After four hours, they moved to the Brickfields campus.

SRC president Sabelo Madlala said: "Our students in Grahamstown and Uitenhage have been shot at and arrested while fighting for their rights … We are here to obtain marks, not criminal records."

"We can't reach the 80% attendance requirement, because the college owes us transport allowances from NSFAS. In order to attend [classes] we must get the allowance first," he said.

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