College students protest against 80% attendance policy

Students claim that late payments of NSFAS allowances caused them to miss classes

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Photo of protesters
Eastcape Midlands TVET College students protested at the Charles Goodyear campus in Uitenhage on Wednesday. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

About 200 Tourism and Hospitality students protested outside the Eastcape Midlands TVET College in Makhanda and about 60 students protested outside the institution’s Charles Goodyear campus on Mel Brooks Avenue, Uitenhage, on Wednesday.

The students in Uitenhage were protesting against an 80% attendance policy to qualify for National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) allowances.

Students who have fallen foul of the policy are demanding amnesty because they say they missed classes due to them receiving their NSFAS allowances late. They say they therefore could not afford bus fares to campus.

A student, who did not want to be named, said, “We burnt tyres yesterday … and when we arrived today the gates were locked … We were greeted by masked guards whose faces were covered with handkerchiefs who barred us.”

Secretary General of the SRC Babalwa Blou said the 80% attendance policy applied to all eight campuses.

After a meeting with the college management, Blou said it was resolved that students affected by the 80% policy should write letters stating why they deserved amnesty.

Students also protested in Makhanda. While the students here also expressed concern over the 80% attendance issue, the main focus of their protest was different.

SRC president Sabelo Madlala, said students were concerned by the “continuous issue” of the college failing to facilitate practicals, which has been happening since 2017. Sabelo said that according to the National Certificate Vocational syllabus, students are supposed to do “theory and practicals”, which is not happening.

Ashley Kasnel, a level 4 Tourism student, said that the protests were sparked when the college cancelled a practical trip to Cape Town. He said that the class was due to travel to Cape Town on 25 August, but the head of the campus had not signed off on the trip.

College spokesperson Kate Oladimeji said that the 80% class attendance policy is an instruction of the Department of Higher Education and Training, and that it had been communicated to the SRC.

On the issue of the practical in Cape Town, she said students were encouraged to attend practicals in the region, for example Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth and East London. She said the college is complying with curriculum requirements.

Oladimeji said classes would resume on campus on Thursday.

NSFAS spokesperson Kagisho Mamabolo responded that NSFAS pays funds directly to Eastcape Midlands along with 25 other TVET colleges, who in turn pay allowances to their students.

According to policy: “The release of student allowances must therefore be dependent on the 80% minimum student class attendance for all subjects the student is registered for … The attendance and punctuality policy was developed to improve retention and pass rates of all students in the TVET College sector and thus all TVET College students are required to strictly comply with the policy irrespective of them being NSFAS bursary beneficiaries or not.”

Attendance is monitored on a monthly basis.

TOPICS:  Tertiary Education

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