Campus chaos in fees fallout

Classes at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) were suspended this week, due to continuing fees protests on its campuses.

CPUT took the decision after several disruptions at its Mowbray, Cape Town, Bellville and Wellington campuses.

Vice-chancellor Dr Prins Nevhutalu engaged with protesters on Monday October 3 when they occupied the administration building at the Bellville campus.

“The group of around 200 people reiterated their list of demands and Dr Nevhutalu, in turn, communicated the institution’s official standpoint on all of these issues,” said CPUT spokeswoman Lauren Kansley.

The protests follow an earlier announcement by Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande that universities would be allowed to increase fees for 2017 but not above 8 percent.

In reaction to this announcement, Dr Nevhutalu released a statement at the time saying they supported the call for free education for poor students and will cooperate with the government and other universities to see how this can be achieved in the future without destabilising the higher education sector or compromise the quality of our educational programmes.

“We are also committed to work tirelessly to find practical solutions to financially assist those students who are referred to as the ‘missing middle. The finances of our university are currently under huge pressure,” he said.

We are working very hard to effect savings and look at alternative third stream income opportunities in all areas, in order to balance the budget for next year,” he said in the statement.

While classes including part-time lectures were suspended on Monday and Tuesday October 3 and 4, staff had to report to duty as usual since the university itself was not closed.

Students however, seem split over the protests and the way students are going about it. Students took to CPUT’s Facebook page following the announcement of class suspensions, to voice their concerns.

Lwando Mrwebi wrote : “I’ve realised that whenever there’s a strike in this country the officials send police to arrest a couple of people and then you end up fighting for the release of those arrested. That’s how they kill the revolution; it happened last year the fight for those who got arrested continued up to the current year. That mistake needs to be corrected.”

Another Facebook user Nwabisa Zanenkabi said: “Free education is the way to go! Whatever it takes to get there…. Makuyiwe!”

Samuel Lwakasi Sam wrote: I think they are fighting for the right causes, but there should be a line to follow…It seems sad in some ways…#feesfallsMobilisation.”

Ms Kansley said the resuming of classes at CPUT campuses would be decided by Tuesday and communicated to staff and students.

Meanwhile at the University of the Western Cape a group of more than 200 protesting students met at the Student Centre to discuss their plan of action in support of the national shutdown.

A statement by UWC executive management on the university’s website said the group had later met in front of the administration building saying they were waiting for a response to 40 demands “

emailed from an anonymous Gmail account under the banner of #FeesWillFall”.

Management had responded to the email on the same day and invited those behind it to meet to discuss the demands in detail but had not received a response to its invitation.

“The executive management again invites the broader student leadership to a multi-stakeholder meeting to discuss issues of concern, including the current challenges affecting the higher education sector. We acknowledge and commend today’s (Monday) non-violent protest, and we encourage university students who exercise their right to protest to respect the rights of those who choose not to participate,” the statement said.

UWC students also took to Facebook, one user Kirstie Samuels wrote : “If I come in and there’s a protest, I hope UWC provides me with transport home because you’re guaranteeing the commencement of classes and scheduled tests. Don’t undermine the protest and the FMF movement, the end is directly to the detriment of students who have to travel in to campus and not have transport home, and also those students who want to come to campus for classes and tests.”

Ntombi Gijana wrote : “Such an arrogant statement, UWC. More than 200? That was the whole campus at the student centre. I couldn’t walk past anyone and you reduce it to 200. This shows how little respect you give students in their struggle for free and fair education. The chairperson of council must come and address students on the issue of fees because we don’t like rumours. We are hearing things, and we will fight until they come out and say these things to the students. At res, dining halls are closed and you speak of normal operation? One night with a hungry stomach makes an angry student.”