Pietermaritzburg students start class boycott

“Hunger causes anger” — student

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Photo of police at entrance gates
The entrance to DUT after police used teargas to disperse protesting students. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

On Wednesday, Durban University of Technology (DUT) students at Indumiso campus in Imbali, Pietermaritzburg, started a boycott of classes. The boycott comes after a meeting between the Student Representatives’ Council (SRC) and management. The student grievances include problems with funding by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), residences, food prices and the registration process.

Student barricaded FJ Sithole Road with burning tyres, slowing traffic. Stones were thrown at the police. The police used teargas to disperse the students.

The SRC secretary Yoliswa Manele said, “There are deserving students that have not been granted [NSFAS] funding. They have followed all the application processes, but the institution has told us that NSFAS and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) has not committed itself to funding us.

“We have more than 300 students who have applied for funding and their status says: ‘waiting for availability of funds’.”

Manele said only the tuition fees had been unblocked; not accommodation, transport, living and other costs. Students said there was limited accommodation on Indumiso campus and some students ended up being tenants in Imbali township.

The SRC also raised its concern about food prices on campus. Student Saneliwe Hlongwa said, “With the funding, a student is given R700 for a month and that doesn’t help at all because of the high price of basic items … We want the management to consider minimising prices for basic items such as bread, milk and sanitary towels.”

Hlongwa said: “When you are hungry you cannot focus, and that is why we have embarked on the strike today. They must listen to us. If they don’t listen we will continue until our voices are heard.”

Alan Khan, Senior Director of Corporate Affairs at DUT, released a statement describing the protest as “violent”. He said, “in order to ensure the safety of our staff and students” the academic programme at the Indumiso and Riverside campuses in Pietermaritzburg would be suspended for the rest of the week. 

“Students in Pietermaritzburg have also been instructed to vacate residences in the Midlands Centre within 24 hours … Only registered DUT students will be allowed back into residence on Sunday, 26 February 2017 from 14h00.” 

The academic programme continues as normal at the DUT campuses in Durban. 

TOPICS:  Tertiary Education

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