Protests over high tertiary tuition fee increases have hit campuses countrywide.
Here is what you need to know about it:
It started at Wits
Wits chief financial officer Linda Jarvis said key reasons for the fee hike were the increase in the cost of library books, journals and research equipment; making provisions for inflation and salary increases for academics to ensure they retained critical talent. She said the subsidy increase from government was expected to come in at around 5%. “The net effect is that we have to make up our income to cover our expenditure in order to remain sustainable. If we do not do so, we put the quality of our academic project at risk.” Wits management said it had difficulty negotiating with students as there were various groups, each with its own leaders, who wanted different things. They included the EFF Wits Student Council, the Progressive Youth Alliance, and the All Residence Council, Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said on Thursday.
“As soon as we speak to the SRC, some students tell us that they are not being represented by the SRC,” Patel explained.
After all-nighter talks with management to end the student protest at Wits, the university on Saturday morning announced that it would suspend its decision to hike the fees. The university said there would be no increase until negotiations reached an agreement.
Classes at Wits remained suspended on Monday.
A call to for a total shutdown at Rhodes went viral at the weekend
On Sunday, a message started doing the rounds on social networking site Facebook threatening a total shutdown at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.
Rhodes SRC president Zikisa Maqubela told eNCA: “Students are protesting about the minimum initial payment, which means students are required to pay 50% of the fees. This means if students live in res, they will be required to pay up to R45 000.” Classes at Rhodes were suspended on Monday morning. There have been reports of students, some armed with sticks, turning people away from the campus. Some students were also reportedly barricading entrances with burning tyres. Parents joined the fees protest at the university, indicating that it was no longer just a student issue.
Not all students at Rhodes are supporting the protest with some complaining that they need to focus on exams which is happening in two weeks’ time.
A student posted a comment on the SRC’s Facebook page complaining about the protest.
“These events are unbelievably inconsiderate to so many people trying to study and do what they came to this university for. The fact that some people might now not be able to write exams or perform academically as well as they are capable of due to protest disruptions is extremely unfair and it seems that very little thought has gone into this by fellow Rhodents.”
At the same time, protesters hit UCT
The student protest has also moved to the Western Cape where entrances to the University of Cape Town’s middle and upper campuses were barricaded with rocks, benches and dustbins on Monday morning. The university has suspended all lectures. “All staff and students are asked to refrain from coming to UPPER CAMPUS, MIDDLE AND LOWER CAMPUS for today. Staff and student currently on UPPER CAMPUS, MIDDLE AND LOWER CAMPUS are asked to leave the campus,” UCT said in a statement on its website.
This is just the beginning
Students at the University of Pretoria are said to be planning to shut down three of its campuses in the capital city on Wednesday over the fee increase. Stellenbosch University is expected to hold a mass meeting against the increases on Wednesday. Fort Hare students are expected to protest on Tuesday. – News24