Student representatives at the strife-torn University of Zululand (UniZulu) are hopeful that academic activity will resume at the institution on Wednesday.
On Friday the university’s management suspended classes at the KwaDlangezwa and Richards Bay campuses following two days of violent protests and disruptions. Students had to vacate residences and weekend media reported that many of them were left stranded.
Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Monday, leaders of the universities two major student bodies expressed confidence that classes would resume on Wednesday. SRC president Bongani Sithole said negotiations were under way with management to address the students’ grievances. “We are making progress in our discussion and it seems we should reach an agreement with management which would see classes resume on Wednesday,” he said.
Sir Mnqanyi of the National Students Movement (Nasmo), said his organisation did not support last week’s protest action and teaching and learning should resume as soon as possible. “The students behind these actions did not consult the student body and just imposed this strike on the rest of us, so we are hopeful classes will resume soon. That is our main priority,” he said.
Sithole said that the SRC felt students were not being taken seriously because management “has been dragging their heels on dealing with our grievances”.
“There are a number of issues up for discussion, such as understaffing, underqualified lecturers, outdated curriculum and programmes, NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] and transport and accomodation problems,” he said. “These issues have been brought to the attention of management for years but nothing ever gets done.”
Sithole admitted that the SRC had not called a meeting to inform students of the protest but had used noticeboards instead, because “the university refused to provide a venue to hold such a meeting”.
“We notified students through the noticeboards and I myself did not leave campus until midnight on Friday afte we ensured that every student in need had a place to sleep.”
However, Mnqayi questioned the SRC’s reasons for initiating the protests. “The SRC made agreements with management last year and when they realised that if these agreements went ahead it would be political suicided they fabricated this strike action. They call themselves leaders but are acting like barbarians,” said Mnqanyi. “How can students be striking if they don’t even know what for?”
University spokesperson Claire Taylor confirmed that students’ grievances had been brought to the university’s attention before and were being dealt with but could not say what had sparked off the protests.
“The vice-chancellor has been trying to deal with these issues and I’m not sure what drove the students to boiling point on Friday. The first day of protests was relatively peaceful but things turned nasty on Friday,” she said.