Durban University of Technology (DUT) students took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against a financial aid bureaucracy that they perceive as erratic. Registration at DUT opened in mid-January, but thousands of students remain unregistered due to various financial-aid issues. Registered and unregistered students marched together in solidarity. They told QINISO MBILI about their predicament.
Magugu Khathi, third year food technology, unregistered
We want every student to be registered and be offered accommodation. I know that most of these issues are related to NSFAS, but [vice chancellor Ahmed] Bawa has the power to resolve most of these. He is human before he is vice chancellor; he needs to know that students are facing a lot of problems because they are unregistered. Life in the city is expensive and unregistered students end up doing unfavourable things just to get by. I really hope the strike will grow stronger because at this size, Bawa won’t take us too seriously.
Samkelisiwe Mvelase, second year child and youth development, registered
I fully support the strike because education is important. This is the only language that the management understands. The staff members at financial aid offices relax and enjoy the aircon while students are suffering. In that office they do as little as possible to help you and are careless. Students’ documents usually get lost at their hands. Classes started a long time ago and so many students should be in class but they are not. Only the strike can solve all this.
Ndumiso Lukhozi, third year graphic design, registered
Although I fully support this strike, I don’t think we are going to get what we want – this strike is too peaceful. There are too many students who are unregistered due to financial-aid issues. Residences are empty; classes are empty. We cannot let so many students go back home – too many families will lose hope. It is not good for us to attend while our fellow brothers and sisters are sitting at home.
Lungi Myala, third year marketing, unregistered
The strike is crucial to every start of the academic year at DUT so that all students can be registered and be allocated residences. The management can afford to do all that – they have been doing it all these previous years – they just need the students to push them. It is crucial that we strike in order to fix a lot of things. Although I doubt Bawa will reply as promised, we should strike until he gives us the desired response.
Nonhlanhla Khoza, third year accounting, registered
Like most of these unregistered students, I come from the homelands, far away. I feel their pain, because they cannot get residences without registering and end up sleeping in lecture rooms and the library. It is hard for these people to just pack and go back home: they have too much to fight for here. The management should come up with a plan as soon as possible.
Mhleli Mkhize, third year journalism, registered
Our current Student Representatives Council (SRC) is very soft. This strike should have happened a long time ago. Some classes started last month and the strike only starts now a few weeks before registration closes. These comrades are too soft and are working too closely with the management. We have only the Sasco (South African Students Congress) to thank for this strike. Bawa must understand that students are poor and want to better themselves.
Zanele Msani, second year cost and management accounting, unregistered
Home is back in Port Shepstone, but I have been staying at a friend’s flat for more than three weeks now – it’s slowly growing uncomfortable. I haven’t told my grandmother that I’m still unregistered; I do not want to unnecessarily stress her out, because there is nothing she can do about my outstanding balance. She thinks that I have started attending classes. She was so excited that this would be my final year: this is why I cannot go back home to deflate her high hopes. The strike is my only way out – I really hope that it will continue until all issues are resolved.
– All images: By Qiniso Mbili.