Fort Hare students protest over fees, water and electricity

Staff back at work after Alice campus shutdown

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Photo of burned building
A student centre at the University of Fort Hare was set alight during student protests. Photo: supplied

Students at the Alice campus of the University of Fort Hare are protesting about fees, water outages and power cuts. On Monday the campus closed down. A student centre was set on fire. One student has been arrested on a charge of arson, according to Alice police spokesperson Captain Siyasanga Nontshinga.

The protests started on 26 September.

In a statement released on Monday, the university’s acting communication director, Khotso Moabi, said management had taken the decision to shut down the Alice campus because the “volatility of students makes it difficult for staff members to do their work effectively”. He said staff were back at work on Tuesday.

Students’ complaints included fee issues, allowances for students not in residence, periodic water outages on Alice campus, electricity power cuts, poor WiFi connectivity, and the conditions at Jabavu residence.

In a statement on 29 September, vice-chancellor Sakhele Buhlungu said management had been talking to the SRC on issues raised at the last meeting, on 26 September.

“When we left the meeting we were under the impression that issues were appropriately addressed to the satisfaction of both parties involved, barring a few mid-term issues which the SRC agreed to give us a reasonable timeline to address,” said Buhlungu.

SRC president Mosuli Cwele confirmed that some of the issues had been addressed but not all, and especially not the problem of student fees. More than 1,000 students had not yet received loan forms from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for 2018. Students wanted to know how the university would manage this problem, he said.

He said student leaders had held a meeting with students on Sunday and it had been agreed that the protests should carry on until the vice-chancellor met them and accepted their memorandum.

“All we want is for him to come and collect the memorandum and implement the issues highlighted so that we can go back to class, because we are also running out of time,” said Cwele

Moabi said it was difficult for the vice-chancellor to negotiate with the students in the “kind of climate” currently on the campus.

TOPICS:  Tertiary Education

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