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KZN campuses brace for aid protests

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UKZN Howard Campus

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File photo: Gcina Ndwalane

Durban - Protests could erupt at the Universities of KwaZulu-Natal and Zululand over a lack of student financial aid, the SA Student’s Congress (Sasco) has warned.

The warning follows mass action this week by students at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and Mangosuthu University of Technology.

Hundreds of students were ordered out of their DUT residences on Thursday after management moved to restore calm at the institution.

Sasco insisted its protests were peaceful and said it condemned the violence that had occurred and accused campus security of attacking peaceful students who had a right to protest.

Twenty were admitted to hospital this week after students at both universities were fired at with rubber bullets and paintballs during protests.

On Thursday Sasco’s deputy chairman in KZN, Mthobeli Siphamla, said deserving University of KwaZulu-Natal students had not been grantedfinancial aid by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas).

“Three thousand students who qualify to get Nsfas and are deserving have not been granted financial aid in the previous year to this year because there was a lack of funding. Only 1 200 first-year applicants out of 9 000 have been granted financial aid.

“This means that the problems relating to financial aid in the university have not at all been resolved,” he said.

Sasco welcomed management’s decision to allow returning students in debt to the institution to register.

Siphamla said they would continue to press for funding for BTech students.

At the University of Zululand (UniZulu), a decision to go on strike has already been taken as Sasco challenges a 12 percent increase in accommodation fees, financial aid issues, and registration of students in debt to the institution.

Normah Zondo, UniZulu’s spokeswoman, said they were not aware of plans by the students to strike.

“We also do not have any problems with Nsfas. Our registration process, which began on January 20, is in progress and is running smoothly as planned,” she said.

Lesiba Seshoka, a UKZN spokesman, said registration would begin next week and classes were due to commence on February 10. The university was still in discussions with Sasco and the Students’ Representative Council, said Seshoka.

Meanwhile, DUT had provided transport money to students who had no money to go home, its spokesman Alan Khan said.

Khan said that unlike in previous days no violence was reported. Lectures were suspended on Tuesday until further notice and students had until midday on Thursday to vacate residences.

He said the decision to close the DUT was to protect the majority of the 24 000 students and staff members at DUT from the violence.

* Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande announced on thursday that R1 billion would be added to the Nsfas budget. “My department has made available an additional amount of R1bn, sourced from the National Skills Fund, to all universities to cover the 2013 and 2014 shortfall,” he told reporters in Pretoria. – Additional reporting by Sapa

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