On Monday, The Mangosuthu University of Technology and the Pietermaritzburg campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) were shut down. The South African Union of Students (SAUS) has also warned that it may shut down other campuses across the country in protest against proposed hikes in the cost of tuition.
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The Democratic Alliance Student Organisation (DASO) is however not having any of it.
“Such a move will only make the situation worse for all students, especially those from poor backgrounds, by disrupting valuable academic teaching and support,” DASO’s Yusuf Cassim said in a statement.
Students across the country however are feeling the ripples of discontent, as no sustainable solution to the cost of tuition has yet been put forward.
“We can’t have these ridiculous fee increases every year because, honestly, it feels like education is being commodified – us from the middle class are being targeted because we can’t afford education. It’s going to come to a point where we must rise as students to have our voices heard, then it has to be done,” said Amanda Mashego, 19, a student from Wits.
For students at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, the goal of free education is propelling students towards further protest.
“Students are still facing exclusion financially because they cannot afford the fees,” said a 22-year-old UKZN student from Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg.
According to Thabitha Sibiya, 20, who is also a student at UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus, the SRC and SASCO have been mobilising students there.
Another student said the the protest action actually began last week.
“This began on Thursday last week, where some students were kicked out of lecture rooms and residents around the University, that is where police started to fire rubber bullets and teargas around 20h00 on Thursday. Friday was a bit calm until they woke up today early in the morning around 3:00 where they went to student residences to wake them up so that they can gather at main campus, and around 7:00 they began singing on the streets going around making sure that no one attends,” the student said.
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The ability of SAUS to further mobilise students may however be hampered by the organisation’s association with the ANC.
“The calls to disrupt teaching time by the poorly disguised ANC front organisation, SAUS, is nothing more than an attempt to distract attention away from the Luthuli House’s blame in this regard,” DASO’s Cassim said.
Other students say they are ready to support the protests for now.
“I think it’s easier to support this protest right now because it’s been calm – no violence, no destruction of property or anything like that. A little after the decision was made to call off lectures everyone dispersed and I guess we’re just waiting to hear what management along with SRC decide,” Sibiya said.
In Durban meanwhile, some 200 students took to the streets on Monday to protest against poor living conditions.
Additional reporting by Shaazia Ebrahim and Mohammed Jameel Abdulla.