Race to the end amid university fees protest

A picture posted on Facebook of the Cape Peninsula University of Technologys Bellville campus entrance which was set alight.

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and the University of the Western Cape, along with other tertiary institutions around the country, are in a race against time to finish the riot-rocked 2016 academic year.

CPUT has moved lectures off-campus and met with student leaders to try to keep the lid on the Fees Must Fall pressure cooker long enough to ride out the rest of the year.

CPUT spokeswoman Lauren Kansley said executive committee members of the institution’s convocation and the Alumni Association had met student representatives on Friday October 14, to hear what it would take for normal university activities to resume.

“One of the principle demands of students is for an urgent general assembly to be convened and discussions are currently underway to try to finalise the date, terms of reference, rules of engagement and composition of the various stakeholder groups to attend such an assembly,” said Ms Kansley.

There were plans to continue with lectures, tests and assessments at Wingfield naval base, but residence students would need to arrange their own transport.

However, residence students have fumed about that decision on CPUT’s Facebook page.

Sive Mpehle wrote: “So you guys are of the view that it is not unfair for us students to go back and forth from our respective campuses to Wingfield at our own expense? Yes, we are desperate to write examinations, but it can’t be that you expect us to all have means to arrange transport for this matter.

“Not all of us have cars and travelling costs aren’t a piece of cake.”

Nthabeleng Doda wrote: “CPUT needs to stop taking students for a ride! If we are going to arrange our own transport, where on earth are we going to get transport money to travel back and forth to Wingfield?”

Ms Kansley said the situation at CPUT’s campuses had been relatively quiet following an incident in the early hours of Wednesday October 12 in which three security guards were locked in an office that was then torched at the Bellville campus.

The security guards had to be rushed to hospital. The university opened a case of attempted murder against a 26-year-old student.

The matter is expected to be heard in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court today, Thursday October 20.

The DA condemned the attack, saying: “There is no justification for violent protest. We urge students to conduct themselves in a manner that does not threaten the safety of others or delegitimises their cause.

“We believe that no one should be denied education simply because they are poor. Those who need it most should receive the most financial aid. Financial assistance should also be provided to the ‘missing middle’.”

Classes at the University of the Western Cape were also suspended last week, as protests continued on the campus.

UWC spokesman Luthando Tyhalibongo said the university had held a “day of dialogue” on Monday October 17 with staff and students to find a way to complete the academic programme.

“We hope that these conversations pave the way for the resumption of the academic programme as soon as possible, while simultaneously attending to institution-specific concerns raised by students.”

The university has lost out on two weeks of classes out of the four weeks left for the year.

Online tests, lectures, and assignment submissions have continued during the two weeks of suspended classes.

Students who were unable to submit assignments or write tests online would be given another opportunity to submit their work, said Mr Tyhalibongo.