Unisa students take to the streets after NSFAS officials’ no-show

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

A group of about 300 enraged Unisa students blockaded Langalibalele Street on Wednesday in a protest against the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and issues with the university’s financial office.

The students emptied out rubbish bins in the road and set the litter alight while singing, chanting and calling for free education.

There was a standoff between the protesting students and armed police who tried to disperse the crowd.

The university’s provincial SA Students Congress (Sasco) chairperson, Mondli Shezi, said NSFAS had failed to attend a planned meeting with the students to address various student concerns.

Shezi said NSFAS had not confirmed if they would be funding students and had not allocated funds for returning students. “We had an arrangement with the university’s student funding in Pretoria and NSFAS where they were supposed to come and address students and inform them about the issues students are having with NSFAS,” he said.

“They were supposed to give answers about when students will be given NSFAS and the issue of free education, but they failed to come and did not tell us that they were not coming.”

Shezi said students had gathered on campus yesterday waiting for NSFAS officials but they did not show up.

“That’s when students felt obligated to take to the street because no one is taking us seriously,” said Shezi.

Sasco’s deputy secretary Khetha Mthethwa said they wanted all the students who applied and qualify for NSFAS to be awarded funding by today or they will be “shutting down all Unisa campuses”.

Shezi said they wanted clarity on President Jacob Zuma’s announcement of “free education for all”.

“We want answers. In this generation when you say free education for all, you cannot exclude someone based on their family’s income without considering the family’s needs as a whole.

“If it is free education let it be free education for all,” said Shezi.

He added that they had handed over a memorandum with their demands to the university’s management.

Regional spokesperson for the university Jo Cossavella agreed that the SRC had organised a mass meeting in Pietermaritzburg for NSFAS to address the various student concerns.

“NSFAS informed the leadership last night that they would not be addressing the students [on Wednesday]. This angered the students.

“Students are complaining that NSFAS has not settled their study fees for this academic year,” said Cossavella.

She added that no memorandum of demand was handed to the centre management in Pietermaritzburg.

Mthethwa said they were surprised at the swift response by police to their protest when they had “failed to respond to the recent taxi strike”.

“The police were quick to respond and threaten harmless and unarmed students when not so long ago they allowed taxi operaters to run amok in the city. We are their children fighting for education but we are being intimidated and threatened,” said Mthethwa, adding that they intend to open cases against some of the police officers who attended the protest yesterday.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said no protesters were arrested.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Daily Poll
Government has launched the Covid-19 vaccine online registration for the public as the Department of Health gears up for phase two of the country's vaccine rollout. Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) is now available to the general public and all citizens aged 60 years and above are invited to register for vaccination. Have you registered for the vaccine?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I have registered or have registered my loved ones who are over 60 years
36% - 10 votes
I first want to see how people react to the vaccine, then I’ll register
21% - 6 votes
I won’t be registering because I don’t want the vaccine
43% - 12 votes
Latest Issue

View the Witness in PDF

Latest Issue
Read the latest news from KZN in digital form.
Read now