TUT condemns violent student protest action

TUTThe Tshwane University of Technology condemns the violent student protest action that erupted at the university’s campuses in Soshanguve. The protest action, which has already resulted in the suspension of business at the Soshanguve North and South Campuses last week, started to spill over to other university campuses today, 12 February, with reports of incidents at the Ga-Rankuwa, eMalahleni and Pretoria campuses received earlier.

This is despite a meeting between management and student leaders that took place last night to resolve issues, primarily about funding for students, tabled by the SRC. Although progressive proposals from the university’s side were tabled, these were rejected by the student leaders. (see attached proposal).

The university recognises students’ right to peaceful protest, but any action that disrupts its daily activities is a contravention of the University Rules and Regulations as well as the rights of students who want to study. It is important that the academic project continues without interruption to ensure that our students derive maximum benefit of the teaching offered to them.

Activities at all the university’s campuses will continue tomorrow. Steps have been instituted to ensure the safety of staff, students and to protect TUT property.

In both February and September 2014, similar issues resulted in violent protest action. At that stage the main demand by the students was that all financial blocks should be lifted and all students should be allowed to register without paying the minimum initial payment , as well as not settling the previous year’s outstanding debt. This was agreed to with the students, however the students had to sign acknowledgement of debt, which they did not honour.

As a result, student debt increased by 84% from R134 million in 2013 to R247 million in 2014.

Even though students were once again allowed to register without implementing financial exclusion blocks in the second semester, insufficient NSFAS funds available to assist all students who qualified for funding, resulted in the second violent strike and closure of the University for three weeks in September.

Council subsequently approved that the university will enter into loan agreements similar to NSFAS for 2 660 students to the value of just over R46 million.

The University is well-aware of the financial challenges many students face, but the financial sustainability of the university should also be considered. The reality is that there is no fee free university education in South Africa. Management however, remains committed to engaging with student leaders to resolve the current issues and find mutually beneficial resolutions.