DUT suspends lectures after student protests

Lectures were suspended until further notice at the Durban University of Technology on Monday after protesting students pulled others out of lecture rooms.

The suspension applied to lectures in Durban and at the Midlands Centre in Pietermaritzburg, vice-chancellor Ahmed Bawa said in a statement. Students were urged to continue with the registration process.

Earlier, students demanded that they be re-registered even though their fees had not been paid.

Bawa said there would be increased security at registration venues. "If any further protests take place, we will shut down the university, which includes the closure of all residences.

"We cannot allow the safety of our students and staff to be further compromised by the student protesters," Bawa said.

Student Representative Council president Ayanda Ngidi said a meeting with the university's executive had revealed that the management had failed to act on any of its demands. Students presented their grievances to Bawa last Wednesday.

"They didn't even attend to one issue," Ngidi said, adding that the students had embarked on a full-blown strike.

Cancelled lectures
DUT spokesperson Alan Khan said lectures were cancelled shortly before midday in an attempt to ensure the safety of staff and students who were not participating in the protest. He said police were called in, but due to the size of the three campuses – Steve Biko, Ritson and ML Sultan – it was impossible to ensure the safety of those who were not protesting. 

Captain Thulani Zwane said there was no serious damage and police were keeping watch. The students had dispersed by mid afternoon.

The SRC's main demand was that students whose fees had not been paid by the National Students' Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) be allowed to re-register despite the nonpayment.

"We have no jurisdiction over what NSFAS disburses. The majority of students are not part of the protests," Khan said.

He rejected Ngidi's assertion that the DUT had not tackled any of the students' demands. He said the book allowance had been increased from R1 000 a student to R1 500.

"It wasn't pleasant being on campus today," said Khan.

On Wednesday, students marched from the ML Sultan campus to the Steve Biko campus, where they handed over a memorandum of demands to Bawa.

Kahn said that from 2013 alone, the university was owed R169-million in unpaid fees. He said that in 2013 these students had been able to re-register, but only after "certain guarantees" were given by NSFAS. These had not been given in 2014.

Khan said all students who were not up to date with their fees could not re-register, whether they received NSFAS funding or not. – Sapa

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