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UCT geared to thwart unrest as exams start

UCT has erected several large tents on its rugby fields for students to write year-end exams. Security fencing, guards in riot gear and dogs are being used to protect the tented exam venues. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA

UCT has erected several large tents on its rugby fields for students to write year-end exams. Security fencing, guards in riot gear and dogs are being used to protect the tented exam venues. Picture: David Ritchie/ANA

Published Nov 15, 2017

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Cape Town - UCT students have been advised to arrive an hour before their exams start to get through stringent security checks as the institution commences with exams today.

University management has arranged an examination venue on the upper campus rugby field in the form of a marquee.

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The interior of the marquee is divided into spaces that duplicate the capacity of the venue names as listed on the examination timetable.

In a campus announcement, Registrar Royston Pillay said in the interest of safety for all UCT staff and students, access to the examination centre will be strictly controlled.

Access rights to the specific examination venues will be checked. Students must have their student cards available at all times. They are advised to bring only the essential items needed for the examination, and strongly advised not to bring bags.

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“If you do bring bags, please note that these will be checked by safety personnel in the perimeter area outside the access points to the examination centre,” he said.

Given the access procedures, students have been advised to arrive at the venue 60 minutes before the official start time.

He said examination invigilators have been advised of the safety steps they should take in the event of any irregular activity inside an examination venue.

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“It is recognised that these procedures may well cause inconvenience, but they are deemed necessary at this time and your patience is requested. UCT’s Campus Protection Services will be supported by the SAPS and by PSIRA-accredited private security,” Pillay said.

Student activist Simon Rakei said the last action in recent memory which displayed such an “aggressive and iron-handed securitisation” at a university campus, and which was justified as being necessary and unavoidable for the completion of the academic year, was one that took place at Wits university.

Prior to militarising the campus a poll had been conducted to "gauge" the direction to take. Through the poll, which Rakei said forced students to choose between supporting #FeesMustFall and the completion of the academic year, the Wits executive said it could justify its heavy-handedness under the guise of acting in the interests of the popular vote and sentiment on campus.

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“In comparison to UCT, the university executive didn’t even attempt to force students into such a false conundrum, which is a drastic shift in approach as they have ordinarily demonised and caricatured protesting students at every available turn.

“Even by the university’s own standards the poll to implement the securitisation we are seeing would have been unfavourable. The construction of the tent and exam venue was impressively underhanded, as such that when people saw the site for the first time they were shocked.”

Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said there were two exam windows, the first ending today and the second starting tomorrow and finishing on December 2.

“So far we have not experienced any problems, but the normal security measures are still in place. And then we of course also look forward to the graduation ceremonies that take place in the week of December 4-8. We remain concerned about the safety of our students - especially now that students are leaving the campus (the Stellenbosch campus being an open campus),” he said.

Stellenbosch University encourages its students and staff to be vigilant, especially at night said Viljoen.

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said the university was monitoring the situation on campus.

“The new SRC (student representative council) sworn in last week has communicated its intention to protest during the exams that are set to begin on November 20. University management acknowledges the right of students to protest in a peaceful manner but has measures in place that will be implemented depending on the type of protest,” he said.

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Cape Times

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