Nelson Mandela University students disrupted classes for several days last week, protesting against conditions at off-campus residences and demanding the speedy payment of fees by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).
On Wednesday morning, led by the South African Student Congress (SASCO), students blocked entrances to all campuses with rocks and tree branches.
A SASCO statement said the central issue is free higher education and the “atrocious conditions in which we find ourselves as far as financial aid is concerned”.
“It cannot be that a certain group of students are expected to continue with tests, examinations, and assignments without textbooks, meals, and the relevant support material they would have received from NSFAS,” said SASCO.
In a statement, Nelson Mandela University said it will provide emergency financial support for qualifying and NSFAS-funded students, who are still waiting for the funds, so that they can buy food and books. “The university will reclaim funds provided from NSFAS.”
On Friday students marched to the city hall and submitted a petition to Mayor Athol Trollip. SRC president, Bamanye Matiwane, said, “We are against the increase in municipal rates at accommodation where students are living. We also want the mayor to buy these old buildings in the metro so they can be used by students.”
“We also want the metro police to protect off-campus students because shuttle services are found far away from residences.”
Matiwane said, the lack of transport “directly impacts the poor, black majority and particularly women that are left with no option but to walk to their various residences and are left stranded in an environment that is unsafe and [where] they are consistently victimised”.
“There are busses used in 2010 World Cup. We want students from townships like Zwide and Motherwell to use them for free by just producing their student cards.”
Sibongile Dimbaza, spokesperson for the Mayor, said, “As a municipality we sympathise with the students, but we are limited because we are bound by law. We cannot take those dilapidated buildings [off-campus residences] or force landowners to reduce their rentals because that is private property. Also, we depend on collecting tariffs for our revenue to fund poor residents and supply them with good services.”
NSFAS however published a statement on 2 May saying it had paid substantial amounts of money to the university for disbursement to students. It said that it had paid out money based on the information it had received.
UPDATE: The last paragraph of this article was added on 8 May.
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