The University of the Free State (UFS) will be shut down until 28th of October so that arrangements can be made to readjust its academic calendar in order for all students to complete their studies. This is contrary to reports that the university has been shut down indefinitely, annulling the current academic year.
Negotiations between students and management have fallen through due to students’ inability to agree to resume the academic year despite government’s timing of response to students’ demands.
According to Thomas Kolathu, a student at UFS, negotiations fell through because the student leadership was unwilling to acquiesce to management’s demand to resume the academic year.
The Free Education Movement – which comprises students leading the protests at UFS – want the university to shut down until free education is realised.
“The Free Education Movement was rigid during every meeting at management,” said Kolanthu.
Another student at UFS says she supports the Free Education Movement’s decision of no compromise.
“I’m humbled to be a part of a youth that chose to stand and fight against this unjust system and holding the current ruling president to its promises while being fully aware of all the repercussions that could occur but decided to stand and remain resolute,” the student said.
UFS management however say they are committed to the call for free education.
“The senior leadership wants to restate its commitment to free education as well as its willingness to stand together with students and other public universities to impress on government the urgency to decide on a time frame for the roll-out of free higher education for the poor and missing middle,” UFS spokesperson Lacea Loader said in a written statement.
Meanwhile, students living in the university residences have been urged to vacate their rooms by 12pm on Saturday.
A student at UFS told the Daily Vox that she feels bullied by managements 48 hour eviction notice.
“Management is being weird because it held a meeting with residence prims (head of residences) only with no other stakeholders when they got to the conclusion of evicting students,” the student said.
Police had targeted student leaders and a total of 51 students were arrested on Monday on charges of contravening a court order.
Seventeen of the 51 students appeared before Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday with the rest of the 34 students appearing on Wednesday.
The students were released on warning without having to pay bail.
— Izwe Lethu ✊ (@SirLehlohonolo) October 11, 2016
On Thursday morning, 20 more students were arrested while protesting for contravening a court order. The students appeared in court on Friday and were subsequently released with no bail. They are set to reappear in court on 3 November.
— Mark Steenbok (@MarkSteenbok24) October 14, 2016
20 students arrested yesterday morning at UFS main campus have been released on warning. Case postponed until 3 November #UFSShutdown
— OFM News (@OFMNews9497) October 14, 2016