Classes at the University of Cape Town (UCT) were suspended on Monday as students blockade roads leading into campus. Students are demanding an emergency meeting with university management to discuss fees hikes and the outsourcing of workers at UCT. The university fees are set to increase by 10.3% in 2016. Workers and students at the university shared their reactions with RA’EESA PATHER.
Sena Mazubane, 24, accounting postgraduate student, Observatory
I’m for the protests completely. Some people become uncomfortable over the disruption of their day, their lectures, but they forget that some people live in constant disruption and constant discomfort. We need to make people aware of the fact that we can’t afford price hikes. I know the government says that they can’t afford to increase the subsidy, but we can’t shift all of the price hikes onto the student. I was fortunate enough to get a bursary, but if it had not been for a bursary I wouldn’t have been able to come to this institution. I know friends who are on NSFAS, where NSFAS doesn’t increase at the rate that the price of the university increases, which means their debt is increasing.
Kirsten Bricks*, 22, fourth year business science student, Newlands
I think it’s a valid protest [to stop the fees hike], but it’s sabotaging a lot of people’s degrees. Some people are writing their final accounting exam today, and now the exam is probably going to be postponed because people can’t get to campus. It’s sabotaging a lot, and it’s not a valid strike because they haven’t met with the Council to discuss things. I think the protest should be done, but during the term, not in exam time.
Navjothi Raju, 19, first year history and sociology student, Rondebosch
Both my parents work in university, and they have been through the student action during the apartheid days. I’ve grown up with that mindset and I do think the protests are necessary. UCT is quite an elite institution and what people often forget is that there are students who are coming from a non-elitist environment. For them to make such a major transition isn’t easy. I feel the university forgets about that because it’s more about maintaining an image. It’s about time the students spoke on behalf of their fellow students; UCT needs to be way more inclusive.
Ganeefa Issacs, 21, third year Bcomm accounting student, Mitchell’s Plain
I understand the protest against outsourcing, that’s very valid, because I’ve heard their pains and how little they get paid. But the fact that they are blocking students from getting an education is unfair. Most students that apply get NSFAS funding, so there’s no reason [for protesting]. With inflation and the fact that everything is higher, electricity is going up – we have lights everywhere at UCT and there’s free WiFi – it’s reasonable for a fee hike. We have all these things, we have a library. I don’t think a fee hike will affect people that much.
Khumo Keebine, 22, accounting honours student, Observatory
I support the principles of the protest but I’m against the way it’s being done. They know people are writing exams, and they are standing in the way of us doing that. We have an exam today, Wednesday and Friday, and I was hoping to end on Friday, but now exams will probably go on next week. Look at Rhodes Must Fall, they protested without infringing on other people’s right to an education. I agree with the principle but they are infringing on our rights.
Gavin Wilsnach, 50, assistant supervisor at C3 Food Services
I work in the kitchens where we make food for students in residence. We are fighting to have UCT insource us and that’s why we are demonstrating with the students and Nehawu. We believe we are being underpaid and we will get much more if UCT takes us on their own [without labour brokers]. The outsourcing companies take their bit. I’m left with R4,900 to feed my family. We are understaffed [even though] the code of conduct says that there must be a certain amount of people in the kitchens.
– Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity
* Name has been changed