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Protests erupt at DUT over NSFAS nonpayment

Lectures were disrupted at the Durban University of Technology on Monday as protesting students pulled others out of lecture rooms.

Students at the institution are demanding they be re-registered even though their fees have not been paid.

Student Representative Council president Ayanda Ngidi said a meeting with the university's executive on Monday revealed that the management had failed to act on any of their demands.

Students presented their grievances to vice-chancellor Ahmed Bawa last Wednesday. "They didn't even attend to one issue," Ngidi said, adding that the students had embarked on a full-blown strike.

The DUT spokesperson Alan Khan said lectures were cancelled shortly before midday in a bid 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 campus, Ritson campus and the ML Sultan campus – 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.

Re-register
The main demand of the SRC was that students whose fees had not been paid by the National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) should 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 per student to R1 500.

"It wasn't pleasant being on campus today," said Khan. He said that management would be meeting later on Monday to decide on what action they would take and when lectures would resume.

Last week Wednesday, students marched from the university's 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 that was only after "certain guarantees" had been given by NSFAS. They 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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