/ 26 October 2015

TUT suspends classes as students continue protest

Students at Tshwane University of Technology continue their protest to have management hear their demands.
Students at Tshwane University of Technology continue their protest to have management hear their demands.

Students at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) had blocked entrance and exit points of the campus, protesting management’s failure to address a memorandum that they were handed.

The situation had calmed down when the Mail & Guardian arrived on campus. 

Management said it hopes operations would return to normality on Wednesday. Speaking outside main campus in Pretoria West university, spokesperson Willa de Ruyter said management suspended classes following disruptions.

“Management this morning decided to suspend activities again for another two days and that was after monitoring the situation. In the interest of staff and students, we decided to suspend activities. It’s expected that everyone will be back on the 28th of October [Wednesday],” de Ruyter told the Mail & Guardian. 

Protests at TUT and other institutions including Wits University and the University of Pretoria continued despite an announcement by President Jacob Zuma last Friday that vice-chancellors agreed to stop the hike on fees next year. Both Wits and the University of Pretoria were also closed on Monday. 

De Ruyter said they had hoped things would be back to normal following the announcement. Like majority of institutions in the country, TUT was closed for most of last week. 

“It’s not clear what caused disruptions this morning. There are talks between the central student representative council and management under way,” de Ruyter said.

TUT student leaders said management had not addressed demands they raised in a memorandum prior to Zuma’s announcement on Friday.

“Look, before we went to the ‘fees must fall’ march we had a memorandum that we submitted on campus issues,” Monkie Maluleka, campus chairperson of the South African Students Congress (Sasco) told the M&G. 

He said these demands included funding of students who were left out of National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) earlier in the year. “They were told NSFAS funds had been depleted. That memorandum was not entertained,” said Maluleka.

The memorandum also demanded upgrade of security on campus and cafeteria health standards, Maluleka said.

De Ruyter said it was in best interest of students that they now go back to class. “We need to get students back in the classroom. They need to be able to complete their academic year successfully.

“TUT is a people’s university. We have [a] lot of students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, so we have sympathy to their financial situation. 

“However, the institution is dependent on its financial suitability on government grants and student fees. Those are the things that are being discussed with the central SRC at present.”

Wits management said on Monday it had committed to nine measures in a bid to get the academic programme back on track. 

One of these was that “there will be no increase in fees for 2016” at Wits. “This means that academic, residence and any other fees will not be increased. 

“The Presidency has agreed to underwrite the cost of this, provided that the university make some contribution,” said vice-chancellor Adam Habib in a statement. 

He said management was also prepared to address the increase in the registration fee payment. Students are up in arms of decision to increase registration fee to just under R10 000 next year. 

Habib added that the university’s executive recognised that the practice of outsourcing of support staff at Wits was “exploitative”. Students are demanding the institution abolishes outsourcing. 

Wits will establish an internal commission that will “investigate the effects of outsourcing services on the university, the cost structures associated with insourcing and possible alternative models”, Habib said. 

“On the basis of this, the academic programme must resume on Tuesday, 27 October 2015. It is imperative that we do not lose the academic year and jeopardise the future potential careers of our students,” Habib said.