Durban - The #FeesMustFall student protests at the University of KwaZulu-Natal are threatening to jeopardise the academic year for final year students who have their sights set on completing their undergraduate degrees this year.
The university hopes calm will be restored on all the five UKZN campuses on Friday in a bid to complete the final semester by the end of this calendar year.
The university said it was looking at a plan to cater for recovery time after weeks of protest since last month that forced the early closure of the university for the spring break holidays.
The Daily News spoke to several students at the Howard College campus on Thursday as students continued to protest for fee-free education.
There was consensus among final year students that although they supported the calls for fee-free education and understood the plight of poor students, they were concerned about the lecture time that had been lost.
They were worried about their final undergrad semester being potentially crammed into the first semester of the 2017 academic year.
They are due to graduate in April/May 2017, but this could be shifted further back, should a disruption to the exam calendar force the university to set exams next year.
The fears have also been spelled out by university spokesman, Lesiba Seshoka, who said if protests were to continue, the university would be forced to adjust the calendar for completion next year.
He said as things stood, the university was on course to complete the academic programme this year, but result statements would be delayed by more than a week.
“We are still having discussions about the recovery time required. If the protests continue it will be impossible to have recover time, which means we would have to move the academic programme to next year.”
In Cape Town, Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane had a blunt message for government about the “education crisis”.
Speaking at the launch of a series of intergenerational dialogues on Robben Island on Thursday, Ndungane called for the scrapping of a nuclear deal and called on the government to fund a “long-term Marshall Plan for education”.
“If we don’t act now in terms of universities, in a decade’s time, it will be said that this generation closed down our universities and added them to the ghost institutions of Africa.”
He quoted energy experts who have said there is no rational need for nuclear power in South Africa.
He also repeated warnings that a nuclear deal would increase the debt burden from nearly R2 trillion to R3 trillion.
“If we go the nuclear route, there is no way we will solve the education crisis. We are today at a crossroads in our country. We have turned a blind eye to the desperation of vulnerable, poverty-stricken people,” he said.