File photo: Tracey Adams

Cape Town - UCT students are to protest for an end to “exclusionary” fee increases at the university, following last week’s campaign at Wits.

On Monday students are to protest for an end to “exclusionary” fee increases at UCT.

Rhodes Must Fall (RMF) – the movement which effectively sparked the removal of Cecil John Rhodes’s statue from UCT –

says it will lead Monday’s protest.

The scheduled protest follows a campaign at Wits University, where students shut down the entire campus last week, demanding that a tuition fees hike for 2016 be suspended.

Students had taken issue with a proposal by the Wits council to increase fees by 10.5 percent and blockaded the university entrance, effectively cancelling all lectures.

Wits vice chancellor Adam Habib was forced to leave the Higher Education Summit in Durban to attend to the students’ demands on Friday.

It costs about R43 500 a year to study for a Bachelor of Arts degree at UCT, about R10 000 more than the same course at Stellenbosch University (SU).

UCT also charges about R50 000 for the first year of a Bachelor of Commerce degree, while students at SU pay R33 164, almost R17 000 less.

 

A decision by UCT last month to increase its tuition fees next year by 10.3 percent has now raised the ire of RMF.

“Typical of anti-black institutions, our call for decolonisation and making universities accessible to the black child has been met with a completely opposite response, further subjugating black people in endless cycles of poverty and inequality – a 10.5 percent fee increase,” RMF representative Thuli Gamedze said.

 

“Following the past action at Wits University, the call for decolonisation in our universities could not have been made clearer with the entire campus being shut down as students declared that business would not continue as usual.

“RMF stands in solidarity with the Wits Fees Must Fall campaign as we recognise the nexus in which our struggle

s are formed,” Gamedze said.

“We reject the commodification of education. These public institutions can no longer be run like businesses, preserving the privilege of the elite whilst further distancing their ivory towers from the realities of the black working class in this country.

“It is clear that these colonial administrators of the likes of Habib and Max Price know no limits in preserving the institutional power they have become so vested in.

“These broken systems have in recent months been shown to only preserve white monopoly interests, with no intention to be ‘progressive’ in their attempts to drive ‘social change’ in our societies.”

UCT spokesperson Patricia Lucas said the decision to increase tuition fees “was not a light matter”.

The university allocates about R500 million every year, from various donors, to assist students who have been accepted based on academic merit, but who cannot afford the cost of taking up a UCT offer, she said.

Lucas said the university had carefully studied the government’s budget allocation, saying it had decreased steadily over recent years.

Expected costs increases due to inflation and increasing access for students from disadvantaged communities had also been considered.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said the state had announced it would be increasing funding to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to cater for poor and disabled students.

“The management of universities must open up legitimate channels for discussion and dialogue over matters concerning students with a view to resolving whatever issues arise.”

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