The Durban University of Technology (DUT) has implemented interim online learning for all programmes on all campuses until further notice following the recent protests that disrupted lectures and led to alleged threats against some staff and non-protesting students.
Senior Director of Corporate Affairs at the DUT, Alan Khan said the members of the Executive Management Committee (EMC) and the Senate Executive Committee (Senex) took the decision in the interest of the safety of the students and staff.
EMC and Senex met with the Student Representative Council (SRC) last week to discuss campus operations.
Khan said that while the interim online learning will be taking place, the university will not be closed.
“This temporary measure will ensure that the academic programme is not further compromised,” Khan said.
“Over the last few days, the university faced unwarranted protests that disrupted lectures and more distressingly, led to instances of intimidation and threats aimed at DUT's dedicated staff and non-protesting students.”
According to Khan, the university has already identified some of the protesters and they have since been charged and suspended and are expected to face a disciplinary hearing.
“To date, four suspensions have been confirmed. Two hearings are scheduled and another four suspensions are imminent,” Khan said.
According to a statement issued by DUT on Sunday evening, the main issue raised by the protestors related to direct payments that recipients of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) receive.
“NSFAS has adopted a direct payment system called eZaga. It must be noted that NSFAS appointed their own supplier to manage the eZaga payments. DUT was not involved in the payment process, nor was it involved in the appointment of the supplier. Some students have experienced challenges with receiving their funds from NSFAS,” said Khan.
“When the university was informed of this, DUT immediately engaged with NSFAS and urged them to speedily resolve the issues that were raised by their recipients. The university had timeously informed and updated the SRC on these developments.”
The DUT Financial Aid unit has a been in contact with NSFAS to resolve the eZaga inefficiencies, Khan added.
Following that meeting, Khan said they found that a total of 21,165 students were paid allowances on Tuesday, August 1, according to a report received from NSFAS.
They have found that 1,051 students were not paid by NSFAS and Financial Aid was in the process of engaging with NSFAS to establish the reasons for the non-payment.
Khan said the names of the affected students were collated via the SRC and a link was created for students to enlist their names, which was issued on August 2. A further enquiry was made with NSFAS on Friday, August 4, about payments of the outstanding allowances.
“DUT fully respects and supports the rights of individuals to express their opinions and concerns but it also believes in upholding the rule of law and the values and principles as enshrined in ENVISION2030. The recent disruptions, threats and incidents of intimidation certainly do not align with living the DUT values and principles.
“There is no certainty when the current round of protests will end. The disruption of lectures is likely to continue during the SRC pre-election period and the university understands that there is a real threat to safety and security on campus, hence the decision to implement the interim online lectures,” Khan said.
He also encouraged the DUT community to only access official university statements via the university’s platforms; DUT PinBoard, DUT4life and the DUT website to avoid possible misinformation being spread by protesters.