UCT stu­dents de­mand free ed­u­ca­tion for all

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

CAPE TOWN — Univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion must be free for ev­ery­body by Jan­uary 2017, UCT stu­dent leader Mlin­gane Mati­wane said.

“We are not protest­ing cows and have no in­ten­tion of pick­et­ing ev­ery year,” Mati­wane told stu­dents as­sem­bled on a lawn at the univer­sity, af­ter they re­jected an in­vi­ta­tion to join a picket by lec­tur­ers and other stu­dents at Par­lia­ment.

Read­ing a state­ment, he said they wanted noth­ing to do with the picket, and said an email by Vice Chan­cel­lor Max Price invit­ing the UCT com­mu­nity to join the picket was as­tound­ing. He said Price was re­spon­si­ble for the sus­pen­sions, ex­pul­sions and in­ter­dicts of sev­eral stu­dents. “What does it mean, for in­stance, to con­demn protest ac­tion over the last 18 months and now call on stu­dents to join them in protest?” asked Mati­wane.

He said it was Price who had sub­mit­ted to the fees com­mis­sion that UCT needed an 8 per­cent fee in­crease. The es­ti­mated 200 stu­dents, lis­ten­ing and click­ing their fin­gers in sup­port of the state­ment Mati­wane read, de­manded that lec­tur­ers re­move any af­fil­i­a­tion to the stu­dent move­ment from their com­mu­ni­ca­tions. They should re­move any of the stu­dent move­ment’s Fees Must Fall-re­lated hash­tags from univer­sity state­ments and tweets.

He said the dean­ery of the Fac­ulty of Health Sciences had called for the picket to Par­lia­ment. He told the stu­dents that af­ter the Dean’s Fo­rum on Stu­dent Protests, stu­dents had met and con­sol­i­dated four de­mands to be pre­sented to gov­ern­ment.

They wanted free, de­colonised ed­u­ca­tion, dou­bling of spend­ing on higher ed­u­ca­tion to 1.5 per­cent of the GDP, and com­men­tary on and ac­knowl­edge­ment of their de­mands by next Tues­day, plus a plan for free ed­u­ca­tion by Jan­uary 2017. Fi­nally, they wanted clar­ity on the re­turn of sus­pended UCT stu­dents. This re­lates to a group of stu­dents who, in May, par­tic­i­pated in the “Shackville” protest over the short­age of stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion, and who al­legedly de­faced stat­ues and —

paint­ings of colo­nial and apartheid-era fig­ures.

GroundUp re­ported that the five stu­dents were: Alex Hotz, Masixole Mlandu, Chu­mani Maxwele, Slovo Magida, and Zola Shokane.

Stu­dents be­lieved gov­ern­ment was not tak­ing them se­ri­ously and was wa­ter­ing down and sidelin­ing their de­mands. They didn’t want to talk about the rise and fall of fees as a com­mod­ity any­more and wanted all ed­u­ca­tion to be free from pre-school.

They ques­tioned how the univer­sity could af­ford the se­cu­rity used to keep them at bay when it said it was so short of money.

“We de­mand clar­ity as to why free ed­u­ca­tion can­not be achieved, but the mil­i­tari­sa­tion of a cam­pus can,” the state­ment con­tin­ued.

There were many fa­mil­iar faces in the group, such as sus­pended pol­i­tics stu­dent Masixole Mlandu, who, ear­lier this year, led a cam­paign ques­tion­ing the pres­ence of colo­nial era works of art and sculp­ture on cam­pus. Also present were some faces from the “Shackville” protest. They were part of a group of stu­dents who stormed the par­lia­men­tary precinct dur­ing then fi­nance min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene’s mid-term bud­get speech on Oc­to­ber 21. Po­lice pushed them back us­ing rub­ber bul­lets and stun grenades.

On Oc­to­ber 23, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma an­nounced a fee freeze at ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions for 2016 and an in­quiry into univer­sity fees. On Mon­day, Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande an­nounced that poor pupils and those from homes with an an­nual in­come lower than R600 000 a year would not see fees in­creased. He left it up to uni­ver­si­ties to an­nounce their own in­creases, up to a max­i­mum of 8 per­cent, for stu­dents who fell out­side those cat­e­gories.

A call to show sol­i­dar­ity with stu­dents at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of the Western Cape was made be­fore stu­dents dis­persed. Fol­low­ing the picket at Par­lia­ment, Price said a plan on fund­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions was needed by year end so it could be im­ple­mented by Jan­uary 2018.

He said at the heart of the picket was the univer­sity’s plea to Par­lia­ment to help it find a so­lu­tion to the on­go­ing un­rest, but, more fun­da­men­tally, the fund­ing of higher ed­u­ca­tion.

He said in a state­ment that he was thank­ful for Nz­i­mande’s mora­to­rium on fee in­creases for 2017, but that it was a short-term so­lu­tion.

“We will face the same is­sues ev­ery year. We must find a longert­erm so­lu­tion, in terms of in­vest­ment into higher ed­u­ca­tion that will also help us with bring­ing the un­rest to an end.” — Sapa

South African po­lice fired tear gas in clashes with stu­dents at the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal on Thurs­day and ar­son­ists torched a build­ing at an­other cam­pus overnight, po­lice said on Thurs­day, as protests over tu­ition costs spread Sapa

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