UCT students continue protest action amid registration, fee issues

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Students attend a mass meeting at Graca Lawns at UCT to protest registration issues.
Students attend a mass meeting at Graca Lawns at UCT to protest registration issues.
Gallo Images/Brenton Geach
  • University of Cape Town students continued to hold demonstrations on Friday.
  • They want all campus activities halted over fee debt and registration issues. 
  • The university has refused to suspend campus activities. 

University of Cape Town (UCT) students have continued their demonstration to try and halt all campus activities over registration and outstanding fee debt issues.

A heavy police present was present at UCT as students protested on it upper campus. 

The protest action on Friday prompted an urgent staff meeting.

In an email sent by acting deputy vice-chancellor Emeritus Professor Martin Hall to staff, the university said it was not prepared to suspend campus activities. 

"We are not prepared to close the university and suspend all research and teaching as the Student Representative Council (SRC) is demanding, and our advice is the same as yesterday [Thursday] evening: Where staff can gain access to the campus and are prepared to do so to enable key aspects of research and teaching, they should do so. But no staff member should put themselves at risk," he said in the email.

READ | Students attempt to shut down UCT amid outstanding fee and registration issues

Hall added staff members have asked why the university was not taking firmer action to remove blockades. 

"This would require a court interdict and the intervention of the Public Order Police services and would inevitably result in a significant escalation of conflict." 

He said all vehicle access to the Upper Middle and Lower campuses remained impeded. 

UCT students during a protest against registration issues.
Gallo Images Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

"The focus of protests has shifted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, which is under intense pressure, and both lanes of Anzio Road have been blocked with the consequence that SAPS is on site.

"We are in communication with the SRC, and we are persisting with our insistence that they stop disrupting access to the campus and intimidating staff and students who are not part of the protest," Hall added. 

On Thursday, some students occupied the Leslie Social Building for more than an hour, calling on the university to suspend classes to accommodate those who were not registered due to delays and a fee block.

A Special Council meeting to resolve the fee block is expected to be held on Monday.

ALSO READ | UCT students shut down campus over outstanding debt, registration challenges

Acting SRC president Siya Plaatjies said the call to protest was much bigger than an administrative glitch. 

"It's about the larger struggle of fee blocks and ultimately the free quality and accessible education for all. We cannot go to class while the marginalised students in this university fall behind, all while waiting anxiously for a council meeting to determine the futures of themselves."  

Plaatjies added students could not sit and study while unregistered self-catering students were not receiving their food allowances and were expected to study hungry. 

"We cannot study when faculty staff is working overnight and 'flat out' in order to patch up the gaping holes in UCT's administrative structure." 

The university, in a statement, said all student registration backlogs, across faculties, had been cleared. 

"The UCT executive is not prepared to close the university and suspend all research and teaching, as the SRC is demanding. It is essential that students continue the academic year after two very difficult years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic." 

It confirmed the Special Council meeting will be held on Monday, where a proposal to reconsider the fee block policy would be tabled. 

"We urge the SRC to give this process an opportunity. The SRC will be fully represented at the council meeting. Until council has met on Monday 21 February, no student has been blocked from class," the university said. 

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