At least 22 people arrested during student protests in Bloemfontein

Central University of Technology students blame NSFAS for delays in funding

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Police disperse protesting students at Bloemfontein’s Central University of Technology (CUT) with stun grenades on Monday. Photos: Becker Semela

Lectures at the Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein were suspended on Tuesday morning as a protest by students entered its third day.

Since Friday, the situation outside the main campus has been tense with students protesting over lack of funding for food, housing and study materials such as textbooks and laptops, because of delays by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Students at higher learning institutions across the country have been protesting in recent weeks as a result of NSFAS’s failure to pay allowances on time.

Last month the NSFAS CEO briefed Parliament on its current troubles and admitted that there were capacity “challenges”. The Auditor-General told MPs that NSFAS had received an adverse audit opinion for the 2021/22 financial year.

At CUT, students’ anger boiled over on Monday. Police and law enforcement were called and dispersed the protesters from the campus with stun grenades. Students GroundUp spoke to said they were angry that NSFAS-funded students were expected to write exams this week without proper materials, particularly those in practical courses like engineering.

Sibongile Khuzwayo, who is in her second-year teaching degree, said: “The university should stop with the tests because we don’t have textbooks.”

Protesters barricaded the entrance to the main campus with chairs, tables and rubble.

Thabiso Mokoena, who is studying Information Technology, said he comes from Qwaqwa and can’t pay his rent. “The landlord said that if I don’t pay by the end of this week, she is going to evict me. This will be the second time. I once slept on the street for three consecutive days,” Mokoena told GroundUp.

Police spokesperson Thabo Covane confirmed that 22 protesters had been arrested and would appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court.

“So far the situation is calm, and police are still monitoring on the ground,” Covane said.

CUT spokesperson Dan Maritz said no damages had been reported. The institution has obtained a court interdict against further disruptions at the university, he said. “The protests are as a result of NSFAS funding issues. CUT is putting in all efforts to facilitate and resolve the matter,” said Maritz.

TOPICS:  Tertiary Education

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