Buffalo City College students: “We won’t move!”

Students living in res at the Buffalo City Public FET College (BCC) in East London were served with eviction notices on Thursday. The notices came after a petrol bomb was lit on the school premises, following three days of strikes. BONGIWE TUTU found out from BCC students living in residences and hostels what they make of the situation.

On Thursday afternoon BCC principal Dharamchand Singh announced that the institution would close until further notice and sent out notices to all residences and hostels, stating that the students must vacate their accommodation within 30 minutes. This was in response to the student strike and acts of vandalism.

Students at BCC are striking because they want money for accommodation, transport and textbooks. The students say this can be achieved if the school combines the remaining funds allocated  by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) with money that can be generated from budget cuts.

Sibongile [Bongiwe]Sibongile Ngqaka, 25, third-year office administration student, East London
As we are sitting on these couches, our things are packed, and we are just waiting for what will be done to us. We went on a strike because there are so many students without a place to stay and we need the school to assist us. We have done some vandalising here and there during the strike, but we just want to be heard so that there can be a change. Now they are telling us to move out of res, and we have told ourselves that we are not moving! I have no money, I have no food, and I have nowhere to go. Why must we give ourselves to men around here just so that we can get money and have something to eat? The school does not care about us. Last week on Friday we were evicted at 3 in the morning from res and as a result a female student was raped.

Ayabulela [Bongiwe]Ayabulela Mabinda, 24, office administration student, King Williams Town
This is an inconvenience to us; we cannot be removed like this, without any fair notice. If we are moved by force then we will stay by force! There are many events that have led to this situation, and we tried to speak to the school to meet our needs, and they refused without giving us any alternatives. We spoke to the security guards and the police and found that they had no knowledge of our eviction; they just want to make sure that there is no vandalism. So it is management that is trying to evict us, because they will not hear us. They did not even notify us properly about this eviction, so we are not moving. We see these notices pasted up on the walls but we will just remove them.

Sinesipho [Bongiwe]Sinesipho Zizele, 22, third-year office administration student, East London
I live in Scenery Park and it is so far to travel from there and back. We did not even get transport allowances this year, as we usually do. But Blade Nzimande [minister of higher education] gave out money for higher education institutions. They just told us that there are no funds and we must just deal with it. Here at BCC we always have to strike in order to be heard. We have been striking ever since I started studying here in 2013. We even had to form our own Sasco branch in order for there to be a channel for students’ voices to be heard. But this situation is very frustrating and the best thing we have found we can do is to stay here in res and not move.

Khayalihle [Bongiwe]Khayalihle Ndayi, 24, final year financial management student, Flagstaff
We do trimester and semester courses, and we have tests later this month. But they are chasing us out of res: how are we supposed to write our assessments and tests when we have no place to stay? There are seniors among us, who are close approaching their graduation to get their diplomas, and this is going to disrupt their learning and evaluations. I live in Flagstaff and it would be impossible to travel to and from school every day. They [management] are [unable] to respond to our requests. We are striking because we can see that there is space in residences for students without accommodation, but management does nothing for those students. They just expect us to be gone in 30 minutes.

Zikhona [Bongiwe]Zikhona Mbambeni, 23, third-year office administration student, East London
They said that we, people from Duncan Village, cannot get transport money because we are living close enough to the school. Last year I got robbed three times because I always walk to and from school. By the time I get to school I am tired – I cannot even learn properly. The rainy days are the worst because I get to school all soaked up and there is nothing else I can do. I do not have anyone to support me at home: my mother is a volunteer at a community project and she gets under a R1,000 a month. She has to support three children and all of us are studying. So we have to fend for ourselves and it would be nice if the school would assist us and not throw us out, because we want an education.

Papama [Bongiwe]Papama Mrwebi, 36, electrical engineering student, BCC SRC president, East London
I am so scared as the SRC president that this is happening to our school. And they are doing this with full knowledge of the student that got raped the last time they chased students out of res. We have students coming from Durban, Queenstown, Port Elizabeth, Qumbu – all living at a distance from the school. So where will they go when they are told to leave res? We need management to meet us half way. We also have students due to write sups [supplementary exams] from the 16th of this month. We need the minister of education to do something, how can you compromise students this way?

All images: By Bongiwe Tutu.