Students close down most of UWC and CPUT

“Our fight is not just for free education”

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Photo of students marching
Protesting students have vowed to close down UWC for the second day tomorrow. Photo: Ashleigh Furlong

Protesting students plan to shut down teaching at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) for the second day in a row tomorrow. Classes have also been suspended at the Cape Peninsula of Technology (CPUT).

Following a mass meeting at 1pm at UWC, students marched peacefully around campus today entering a number of buildings and ensuring that very few staff or students continued work.

Student leader Monde Nonape told the group that they were “not exalting anyone’s agenda” and that they would “only speak of free education”.

“Maximum discipline needs to be maintained. There is nothing revolutionary about being shot at,” said Nonape.

Various students addressed the crowd, several calling on students not to wear political regalia to the protests as they needed to “stand as a unified force”.

“Our fight for free education is not just for free education. It is for free decolonised, Afrocentric education,” said one student.

Last week, students who call themselves UWC Fees Will Fall handed over a memorandum to the university’s management. The 40 demands include: “free quality, decolonised, black-centered education”; no fee increments; the scrapping of all student debt; the dropping of all charges against students involved in previous protests for free education and no denial of graduation for those with outstanding fees.

In a statement responding to these demands, Pamela Dube, deputy Vice-Chancellor for student development and support, stated that she had requested a meeting with the authors of the memorandum “to no avail”.

“Most of the concerns raised in the memorandum relate to issues that have been attended to since last year’s student protest and the university has made significant progress in this regard.”

Dube said this year no academically deserving student had been denied access because of finances. Students with fees outstanding would be allowed to graduate, she said.

The university had set up a task team to review the policy on student safety and security with regard to sexual violence.

“In addition, there are a few issues contained in the memorandum that are systemic, long-term and some are beyond the reach of the university, and we have raised these with the relevant government authorities,” stated Dube.

In a follow up email Dube stated that no meeting had taken place because a representative of the protesters had asked for a mass meeting today with the university’s executive but “with all things considered, this option was not deemed helpful in reaching the best possible outcome”.

Student Nangamso Bomvana said that the university’s response to them was “vague”.

The protesters plan to shut down the campus again tomorrow.

Classes at CPUT were suspended for today and tomorrow after lectures were disrupted by protesters at the Cape Town campus this morning.

Protesters went to several lecture rooms around 8.30am and told students to leave class.

When GroundUp got to the campus around 11am, scores of students were out of class wandering around and sitting at the piazza. Some said they were going home because “there were no classes”.

Private security officials were present and at about midday four police vehicles drove onto the campus. A large group of students started chanting struggle songs and making their way down the piazza.

Carrying a loud hailer and addressing the students, South African Students Congress (Sasco) leader Aviwe Gwayi said the students should show solidarity with other universities, by shutting down CPUT.

He said students had three demands: free education; the cancellation of student debt, and insourcing of campus workers. “As a leader I say the way forward is a shutdown”.

Asked whether she supported the protest, CPUT student Afika Higa said she just wanted to continue studying. “We are supposed to be writing tests but now that cannot happen. I support the cause and I agree with the demands of debts and loans being cancelled and the insourcing of workers, but not so much the free education. A lot of workers depend on that money that is generated by fees. I think that fees should not be increased, but to say they must not be paid completely, I don’t think so.”

The university released a statement saying classes for today and tomorrow had been suspended. “Further information on the continuation of the academic programme will be available later tomorrow after an evaluation of the current safety and security situation has been done.”

“All staff are expected to report for duty as usual since the university is not closed,” said the statement.

Students have given CPUT Vice Chancellor Prins Nevhutalu until tomorrow to meet suspended students.

Over a hundred students and workers held a mass meeting with Nevhutalu today at the Bellville campus.

Students asked when the students who were suspended during the fees must fall protests last year would return to university.

When Nevhutalu said they would first have to go through a disciplinary hearing, students started shouting “when”, saying the students had been suspended for more than ten months and had missed a year of teaching.

“We know for a fact that those students have not yet faced a disciplinary, it’s been ten months,” said Lukhanyo Vangqa, who was asking the questions. “They have been coming here and every time they are given excuses. The university is delaying the matter.”

“Justice delayed is justice denied .”

He said if the students were guilty of anything not related to the free education protests “we will escort them out ourselves.”

Asked about free education, Nevhatalu said most students would not face fee increases next year in terms of the proposals made by Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande. He said Nzimande had said students whose family income was less than R600,000 a year would not pay increased fees.

Students also called on Nevhutalu to decrease his salary, saying that would bring some financial stability to the university.

Nevhutalu said he did not set his own salary; this was done by the university council.

TOPICS:  Tertiary Education

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

No where in the world is education free.

Education might be subsidised but never free.

These students need to wake up and smell the roses.

Who is going to pay the lectures, keep the ground clean and ensure the universities will be there for these protesters children one day.

All we see is these institutions will close, privatised and if you cannot afford the private varsities SA youth will return to the dark ages.

The lucky ones whom can afford to study privately or overseas will be lost to SA

You will see a massive exodus of young students and families to other alternative overseas vasities or colleges
I just don't see an end to this. Where will it end?

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