Students angry over NSFAS funding take protest to Durban streets

Police stand their ground against protesting Unisa students who blocked Langalibalele Street on Wednesday. (Nompilo Kunene The Witness)
Police stand their ground against protesting Unisa students who blocked Langalibalele Street on Wednesday. (Nompilo Kunene The Witness)

Durban – Hundreds of aggrieved University of South Africa (Unisa) students in KwaZulu-Natal took to the streets on Thursday afternoon to protest against ongoing problems with funding and registration.

Students began their protest at the university, but soon reached parts of the inner city, including city hall and the provincial ANC's offices.

Students there dust bins and dirt onto the roads during bustling afternoon traffic.

Police had initially attempted to break up the group, but this proved unsuccessful. When the group got to the ANC offices, police were more forceful, with one metro police officer ordering protesters to demonstrate across the road from the offices.

"You have trashed the city enough. You must go across the road," he said.

The students, however, insisted they were being mistreated by the education system. One student told News24: "We are poor. We wait outside here day and night and they tell us nothing. How can they treat us this way? This is not the SA we want."

Mass injustices

Earlier on Thursday Unisa SRC president Zandile Sodladla did not mince her words when she met with a large media contingent after a cancelled meeting with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Sodladla said mass injustices had been committed against students because NSFAS and, to a lesser extent, university management were dragging their feet in funding students.

According to Sodladla, registration funding had not been activated for many. She said returning and new students were not allowed to register because they did not have funding from NSFAS and therefore could not pay the fees required.

READ: 'They are pushing us. Anarchy is the only way' - Unisa SRC president

Meanwhile NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo had earlier told News24 that all students who qualify for NSFAS funding must be allowed to register and to attend classes at all universities.

He said Universities South Africa, the Department of Higher Education and NSFAS agreed to allow qualifying students to register without payment.

The university issued a statement saying re-registering students would be allowed "to fully register for the 2018 academic year before the NSFAS funding process has been completed".

The university said only students who submitted registration by February 2 would be registered and that those registrations would be confirmed by February 14.

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