“I come from a family of 16 members and we all depend on my grandmother’s pension. I’m frustrated because the same allowance I’m waiting for would assist back home,” protesting student Nomfundo Shabalala told the Daily Vox on Monday.
Shabalala is a 19 year old student from Pietermaritzburg, and is one of several National Student Funding Aid Scheme (NSFAS) beneficiaries who were demonstrating at Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) in Durban on Monday.
“We’ve been waiting for allowances since Friday but nothing has come through yet. What are we supposed to eat at [our student residences],” she said.
According to students, their allowances allowed those from disadvantaged backgrounds to stretch the money as far as helping provide for their families back home.
A public administration final year student Thembelihle Hlabisa said students were depending on NSFAS to make ends meet.
“MUT is a university that caters for people who come from rural areas and underprivileged backgrounds. NSFAS allowances have been reduced while there’s been a fee increment. It’s unfair because students rely on this money for all their needs, and some even send money to their parents back home.”
“Parents no longer had burdens of supporting their children who are studying but now things will be back to square one,” Hlabisa said.
Academic services were meant to resume on Monday, following weeks of protest on campuses across KwaZulu Natal. However, students forced a campus shutdown amidst protests.
Like in many institutions across the province, some of the burning issues at MUT are old and have resulted in a series of student demonstrations each year.
Registration, funding, and accommodation have been part of the student protest agenda in the previous years. At the Durban University of Technology, 20-year-old Mlungisi Madonsela was shot dead by a private security guard.
Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said five students were arrested at MUT for public violence.
“This morning at 08:30, about 70 students at the Mangosuthu University of Technology protested outside the university, singing and chanting. Five suspects have been arrested for public violence,” she said.
Meanwhile, management says the protest took them by surprise. Senior marketing and communications director Mbali Mkhize said the management had met with the SRC and considered their grievances, but events of this day caught them off guard.
“We are shocked because we were under the impression that it would be all systems go today. Events of this morning really caught us off guard, but nonetheless, we’ve had a meeting with the SRC, and they have explained to us what it is they want. We are willing to come to a resolution that will favour everyone,” Mkhize said.
Management was due to meet with the student representative council today to pave a way forward.
Featured image by Lizeka Maduna