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Where Are We With University Protests?


This month has seen multiple universities engaging in protest action for similar demands to be met. While most have had situations calm down and see negotiations take place, some universities are still engaging in the action. 

With constant news reports about protest action taking place at South African universities, many delays have occurred. Due to strikes and protests, multiple shut downs occurred and had student questioning whether it was worth coming to campus after entrances were blocked and student violence ensued. The main issues students were seen engaging in protests for was concerning free registration, financial exclusions and student accommodation issues.

Nelson Mandela University was one of the universities where students were blocking off roads and entrances as well as engaging in acts of intimidation. Their demands included registration clearance and an improvement in student accommodation issues. Yesterday, NMU released a statement which answered the demands of students and are on their way to having these issues properly solved. 

Last Friday had four Durban University students arrested for damage done to property as well as blocking entrances. They were intending on handing over a memorandum which had financial and accommodation issues at its forefront, mainly around the issuing of NSFAS allowances for food and books and the eventual expected termination of the Bachelor of Technology programme, announced in 2016, which some students had already started. It also saw students demanding that the university's academic programme be suspended until they saw resolution to the issues mentioned. On Monday, students threw firecrackers at security guards who were on the lookout for any signs of protest action. However, meetings and negotiations are taking place and the academic programme continues while students are pick up with protests due to delays in receiving allowances and their displeasure with management. 

Currently, everything is back to normal at the University of The Western Cape where the beginning of February had students demanding issues surrounding accommodation, funding and debts to be resolved. With students having to sleep in the student center and squat where they can, students were enraged. There has since been movements in accommodation spaces being made available and the University and Government states that they are continuously working towards student accommodation issues.

From the 24th of January until February 6th, Unisa was shut down due to staffing strikes. Staff were striking to demand a salary increase. Unisa offered workers an increase of 6.3% but workers rejected it in hopes of an increase between 8.3% to 9%. Their demands were not yet met but the strike was suspended after Unisa stipulated the 'no work, no pay' rule. This week saw rumours of Unisa continuing striking action but no further action has arisen. This strike has however caused delays and has many students asking questions. Many students have received the news that courses have filled their capacity and are advised to continue with their studies in the second semester. 

UKZN is the university where protests are current. This morning saw a war between students and hired security take place. UKZN has been gripped by protest action for the past two weeks and has had multiple buildings be destroyed as well as university property and vehicles. UKZN students are protesting for free registration and are expressing their anger concerning financial exclusions and historic debt rulings. Staff and landlords have also joined protests. Staff are feeling unprotected by the institution during these protests, with reports coming through of workers being disrupted and harassed as recent as this morning. Landlords are losing business as students relocate to a new residence and are in turn blaming the university for this. The situation has since calmed down on campuses and the academic programme is  said to have continued. 

With issues surrounding student fees and accommodation constantly arising, protest action seems to be a common headline for South Africans. While government and institutions attempt to ensure students that procedures are underway to improve on these matters of concern. 







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