Pretoria - Student registration at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) came to a halt on Wednesday when the institution shut down, following rioting by students.
The violence hit the main campus in Pretoria West, and the Soshanguve campus early on Wednesday morning, making the institution the third to be rocked by protests this week.
The violence comes amid student protests against a shortage of funds in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme coffers. The protests were called for by the SA Student Congress (Sasco).
Protests began on Monday, resulting in the closure of the Durban University of Technology, and the suspension of 21 students at the University of Johannesburg.
On Wednesday’s TUT protests forced management to lock the main gate and suspend classes as the protesting students burnt tyres outside.
“They are demanding more money than is available for funding. They burnt tyres at the main gate, prompting management to close the gates and send staff home,” spokeswoman Willa de Ruyter said.
Higher Education SA on Wednesday spoke out against the recent student protests, saying the right to express grievances was acknowledged, but violence against other students and university leadership was a concern.
The chairman of the SA University Board, Dr Saleem Badat, urged members of student representative bodies and leaders of student organisations to stop destroying property during demonstrations.
He called on students to observe the law and common sense and to respect others while expressing their grievances.
“This appeal is particularly pertinent in the current university registration period,” he said.
The student aid scheme needed to urgently find ways of enabling affected students to register for this academic year, he said.
Higher Education SA was committed to finding a lasting solution because it had an overriding concern for the plight of academically deserving students who come from poor socio-economic backgrounds, the chairman said.
De Ruyter said activities on all campuses would resume this morning. Measures had been put in place to ensure the safety of students, staff and TUT property, she said.
The university had compassion for the plight of students who could not register because of a lack of funding, but mass protest was not the solution, she added.
“It will only disadvantage students who have already registered and who need to assume lectures.
TUT had, over time, gone out of its way to find additional funding to assist as many students as possible. The university was consulting with the aid scheme to help more students to register for the year.
TUT was trending on Twitter, after students and others took to social media platforms to vent their frustration. @JackDeveron said: “When will they get that right? Where will they study?”
@Posh_Delux: “This is stupid, where are they going to study if NSFAS grants them funds?”
@keoTrust: “So unnecessary!!! This is ridiculous!”
@Generalbuda said: “The people burning things are students who failed and now expect NSFAS to cough up more money for them.”
@ZeeNh: “That’s just plain stupidity, burn your school and where will you learn?”
De Ruyter made her own point on Facebook; commenting that she had to work while other staff members relaxed at home: Willa De Ruyter: “Ja studente staak al weer. Meeste van die personeel sit lekker by die huis en ek moet werk,” she wrote.