Student protests intensify in Durban
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Durban - PROTESTING students from the Durban University of Technology (DUT) Steve Biko campus and the Elangeni TVET College in Pinetown on Tuesday vowed to continue until their demands were met.
The students from the two institutions were protesting for different reasons. The TVET college students wanted management to reverse its decision to decrease the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) accommodation allowance from R2 180 to R1 000. DUT students wanted registration, which closed on Friday, halted to benefit students with NSFAS appeals.
A Pinetown student, who did not want to be named, said they had expected a response from management after their protest outside the college’s main gate on Friday.
“We want management to reverse this decision. Some students at other campuses were told that they would be getting R800 not the R1 000 we have been told about. We did not get this accommodation money at the end of February and on Friday when we protested, the campus manager told us we would get this accommodation money on Friday, but we have not yet received it,” he said.
He added that after Friday's protest, NCV – National Certificate (Vocational) – students, most of whom were part of the protest, were suspended until further notice.
“We will continue to protest. The amount of R1 000 is too little for us to use for rent and bus fare.”
According to police, a group of about 50 students protested at the TVET college in Pinetown, burning tyres and rubble. Police dispersed the protesters after being called to the scene.
Elangeni College rector Zodwa Aryetey said there was no chance the college could reverse its decision as it was in the best interest of all students to reduce the amount in a bid to ensure that they all received this money.
“This allowance is just for accommodation, not groceries and bus fare. We have been allocated R91 million for all 10 000 students at eight campuses. Some of these students live at home and get this money. We have spoken to them, telling them that this is fraud.”
At DUT on Tuesday, ahead of the protest over issues related to returning students who were awaiting NSFAS appeals on their funding, there was a stand-off between the EFF Student Command and the South African Students Congress students, in which five students were stabbed.
Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said the injured students were taken to a campus clinic for medical attention.
“Police are at the scene to monitor and stabilise the situation.”
Sandiso Buthelezi, from the EFF Student Command at DUT, said no data was provided last year when online learning was introduced for students. Some did not have laptops while others were in arrears with bad network reception and these factors affected their final academic performance.
“There was no recovery plan for these students. When you don’t perform academically, NSFAS doesn’t fund you. These students have put in appeals with NSFAS and at present they have been deprived of registering while they await the outcome of the appeals, and registration closes on Friday.”
DUT Vice Chancellor Thandwa Mthembu condemned the clash between students and added that it was unbecoming of a university student to resort into the most primitive ways of settling disagreements.
“Management has no option but to take very drastic disciplinary measures against all of those who will be identifiable and/or reported to have been involved in this brawl. Simply, their behaviour does not belong in a university.”
Students also burnt tyres and debris along Umgeni Road, near the Makro shopping complex, and later dispersed.