Students disrupt UWC classes

Students were removed from classes yesterday morning.
Students at the University of the Western Cape disrupted the first lectures of the 2020 academic year after the student representative council (SRC) penned an open letter demanding various changes at the institution. 

Videos on social media show the students walking into classrooms to disrupt classes while another video shows students breaking down temporary fences put up to control queues at administration buildings. 

In the letter, the student body demanded the immediate postponement of classes to Monday February 10 and financial clearance for registration. It also addressed student accommodation. 

University spokesman Gasant Abarder said the institution was surprised by the disruptions as the issues raised by the SRC had been discussed between the two parties. 

Mr Abarder said: “The academic year started February 3, while the university officially opened January 6 in order to handle selections, registration and senate discretionary assessments – for students that need to complete one module in order to be promoted or complete their degree. The academic programme for the year has already been scheduled, and any delays now will complicate practicals, placements and general processes. Postponing the beginning of the academic year will compromise the completion of the academic programme for the year.” 

The university had met with the SRC about processes for financial clearance for registration and several students, including those funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), had already been cleared and were registered, he said.

Following protests last year over student accommodation, UWC had taken steps to house more students this year, Mr Abarder said.

“On Friday January 31, the university had been able to secure 766 bed spaces to accommodate the students previously residing at South Point as well as new qualifying first-year students.”

That number had risen to 815 beds as of Monday February 3.

“Students will receive a communication from UWC’s residential services shortly about the process to move to alternative accommodation that has been secured off campus. The move will commence as soon as the logistical arrangements have been confirmed, beginning with those qualifying students that resided at South Point.” 

Mr Abarder said meetings would be held to avoid future protests, and he was certain the rest of the academic year would run smoothly.