Durban students protest against registration fees

More than 200 students at Durban’s University of Technology (DUT) protested over registration fees at the institution’s Steve Biko campus on Friday.

Police said the protests at the institution started at about 10am and that the situation at the campus was “very tense”.

There were claims that police had used rubber bullets to disperse students in the early afternoon.

There were no reports of protests from other DUT campuses and by late afternoon the students had dispersed.

Protests were expected to resume on Monday morning outside the offices of vice-chancellor and principal Professor Roy du Pré.

Students, led by the DUT’s student representative council (SRC), are demanding debt be rolled over for students, especially those receiving financial assistance.

A memorandum issued by the SRC on Tuesday accused the university of not properly applying a means test for needy students.

The SRC is demanding that the entire debt of all students who joined DUT in 2007 and received financial aid be rolled over.

On Monday, the university said in a memorandum that the total student debt at DUT was R175-million—and R72-million of that was from the 2007 academic year alone.

Protests on Monday brought registration at the Steve Biko campus’s sports centre to a halt and the financial-aid offices on the same campus were forced to close after students marched from the management buildings.

The SRC is also demanding that DUT does not increase accommodation fees. However, according to the DUT management, the SRC participated in the council meeting approving the increase in accommodation fees.

The SRC has complained about poor accommodation facilities and insufficient campus security as well as poor transport services between the various residences and campuses.

On Wednesday evening the institution’s management obtained an interdict against the SRC ordering that SRC members do not organise protests on campus or disrupt registration at the institution.

A DUT statement issued on Friday said the SRC memorandum was very similar to the students’ original demands and the “concessions it has [already] offered to students with outstanding fees are fair and reasonable in the circumstances.”

Last week SRC president Mandla Shange threatened to shut down the entire registration process at all the institution’s campuses.—Sapa

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