File photo: Reuters

Durban - Hundreds of teaching students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Edgewood campus have been given their marching orders after failing to meet the university’s deadline for paying outstanding fees.

In a last-ditch effort to salvage their studies, about 100 students descended on the ANC’s provincial offices and the Department of Education’s offices in the Durban CBD yesterday.

They were seeking intervention similar to the R1 million cash injection by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health to help medical students with outstanding fees.

About 200 other teaching students who are affected have given up and returned home, students said.

Sharing a cooldrink outside the Department of Education offices, the students waited patiently as a representative went inside the offices to seek help.

They had already received notices from the university’s registrar, that “no extension will be granted” for late registrations and that all students and staff on university property would be checked for valid student cards.

In the absence of a student representative council member, the students were led by Sipho Ngwenya, who has been unable to register for his second year because of a lack of funds.

Neither Premier Senzo Mchunu nor Education MEC Peggy Nkonyeni were available to meet them.

“The vice-chancellor made it very clear that he’s not running a spaza shop, he’s running a business and that we must pay at least 50 percent. And some of us owe more than R40 000, so that’s R20 000 plus we still have to pay R3 200 registration and R2 900 for residences,” said Ngwenya.

“We were hoping that the department would intervene and speak to management on our behalf, because this problem will only get worse – some people had funding last year, but now they do not qualify,” he said.

Nkonyeni’s spokesman, Bhekisisa Mncube, said they were aware of the plight of the students and confirmed that the MEC was applying her mind to the problem.

But he stressed that it was not within Nkonyeni’s mandate to be involved in matters of higher education.

“We have a shortage of teachers, but we do not have a mandate on issues of higher education or UKZN.

“The students have made a request, and the MEC will apply her mind… for now, we feel the plight of those students as their education is in limbo,” he said.

Mncube said the MEC would communicate to the students once a decision had been taken on how to address the matter.

Last night, when contacted to find out where they would be spending the night, students were singing struggle songs at UKZN’s residence in South Beach.

Speaking from the residence at Edgewood, Khulukani Magagula, of Piet Retief in Mpumalanga province, said he had been given one more night and would have to pack his bags in the morning. He does not have money to go home and said he would “see” what he would do.

Nzuzo Mazibuko of Ulundi, said he was told to pack his bags and would be staying with a friend before going home tomorrow.

Freedom Nene, of eShowe, was not giving up hope just yet, and said he had faith that Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande would bail them out.

University spokesman, Lesiba Seshoka, said 6 500 students had been allocated R260 million from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and a further R100m had been invested by the university and the National Research Foundation as loans, bursaries and scholarships.

“UKZN has over the years awarded substantial financial aid to deserving students who meet the academic requirements of the various degree programmes.

“In supporting students to gain access to quality education, the university provides assistance to financially disadvantaged students through loans, bursaries and scholarships,” he said.

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