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More than 70 further education and training students on the South Coast have been left without a roof over their heads after they were kicked out of the institution’s dormitories following a row over the observance of Islamic customs and rules.
The Coastal KZN As-Salaam campus in Braemar near Umzinto suspended lessons two weeks ago after students protested that those staying in the college dormitories were being forced to follow the religion.
About 500 students study at the college premises.
The campus was reopened on Tuesday, but more than 70 students who had been living in the dormitories, were told to find their own accommodation outside the institution.
Those living in dormitories were funded by the Department of Higher Education’s national student financial aid scheme, which was believed to be paying about R16 000 a student a year towards meals and accommodation. The beneficiaries said they could not afford to pay for their accommodation and meals because they were from poor families.
“Now that we have been kicked out of the dormitories, our parents have been forced to pay for rent outside the college. I’m paying R300 a month and I’m sharing the room with 11 other students, and I still have to buy groceries. In the dormitories, I was sharing the room with four people, and the meals were provided by the college,” student Zanele Mgedezi said.
The Mercury has learned that there were no lessons on Wednesday as lecturers had gone on a go-slow protest to force the institution to allow students back into the dormitories.
Thabile Mofokeng, an office administration student, said she was concerned that her parents would not be able to pay for her expenses.
For the past three years she had been supported by the national student financial aid scheme.
The students went on strike after campus management allegedly compelled them to study the Qur’an and wear Muslim clothes.
They said they were not allowed to carry Bibles inside the premises.
The campus belongs to the Department of Higher Education, which rents the premises to the As-Salaam Institution, which promotes Islamic education and religion.
“All we wanted was to be free to practice our own religions and not be forced to follow Islam, but now we have been punished by being deprived of safe accommodation,” said Mofokeng.
“Some of my classmates have not returned to the college as they were concerned about their safety if they live outside the college.
“Since we have returned to the college, lessons have not started as lecturers are demanding that we be allowed back to our accommodation.”
The head of the Coastal Central further education and training college, Patche Tigere, said he was not in a position to talk to the media about the matter, but said that he was working to resolve the matter.
Higher Education spokeswoman Vuyelwa Qinga said her department was talking with the college management and education officials in the province to resolve the matter.