DURBAN 15092015 Dr Albert van Jaarsveld, UKZN Vice Chancelor, speaking at at a press conference on recent student riots, Westville Campus. Picture:Jacques Naude

Durban - The vice-chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Albert van Jaarsveld, said on Tuesday that the students responsible for violence and damage at the Westville campus would be dealt with harshly.

“A full investigation into the acts of misconduct and violence is under way. Video footage and photographs taken will form part of the investigation. All perpetrators will face the full might of the university’s disciplinary codes and, where necessary, the law.

 The costs had not been finalised, as insurance assessors had just carried out an assessment.

Van Jaarsveld said they were engaging with bodies representing the students internally, as well as with external organisations at provincial level.

There remained a strong police and private security presence at the Westville campus on Tuesday.

Upping the minimum average mark required from students to qualify for funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme and planning to increase a registration fee were the two main issues which triggered the violent protest at the Westville campus.

Van Jaarsveld confirmed that the university had revised an average mark students had to attain. He also confirmed that the university was planning to increase a registration fee, which was paid as a deposit at the beginning of each semester for semester students, and the start of the year for annual students. Previously, students had to have a 50% mark, but the institution had upped it to 70%. The registration fee was R3 500 and they had planned to increase it to R5 000.

The university’s chief financial officer, Bulelani Mahlangu, said requiring 70% from students was meant to encourage academic excellence. He said there were students who worked hard and attained good marks but were “unfortunately” excluded from programmes because they could not afford tuition fees and they would not have been awarded financial aid.

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme allocated bulk funding to the institution and the university would administer and allocate this to students.

“The funding is very limited and a decision was taken. We considered that 70% is a reasonable attempt by the students.

 

Van Jaarsveld claimed the university’s registration fee was by far the lowest compared with other universities in the country. He said this was not an overnight decision but had been communicated with various stakeholders.

On Tuesday, protests spread to Pietermaritzburg and to the Howard College Campus.

On Tuesday night, the university said all academic programmes on all campuses had been suspended.

Police spokesman Jay Naicker said two suspects, aged 21 and 24, had been arrested in connection with the damage at the Westville campus.

“The two will appear tomorrow (on Wednesday) in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court. Westville police are investigating a case of malicious damage to property and public violence,” he said.

The Mercury