Students strike over funding
Police maintained a presence outside Eastcape Midlands College in Grahamstown as about 200 students stood in protest outside the main gate in St Aidan’s Avenue yesterday (Thursday 15 October) over delays in bursary funding.
A strike that started two weeks ago was interrupted by the 10-day holiday, and resumed this week when students returned to write trial exams.
According to some of the students standing outside the gates yesterday, others were inside the premises writing exams.
The students said they had been locked out because they refused to write their exams – an act they’d undertaken in sympathy with students whose National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursaries had not been paid on their behalf.
Olwethu Zenzile, a Level 4 OA student, said he and other students were boycotting the exams currently under way, in sympathy with students whose bursary funding hadn't been paid out.
“This institution has been having deficiits since 2012,” he said. He started at EMC in 2013.
“It has never happened that at this point of the year we have not yet received our money.”
Zenzile said students were supposed to receive R16 000 towards their tuition and accommodation.
“Now people have got the six-month payment which is R9 600. Our remaining balance is R6 400,” Zenzile said.
He said for students from out of town it was impossible to attend lectures, or write exams.
“Some of the students have got their money, others have not,” Zenzile said. “We (support) those who have not got their money – even if it’s one percent of the students.”
He claimed the institution had called the police in order to cause division among the students.
“(EMC are saying) those who want to write must come and write. Those who don't want to write, they must remain outside,” he said.
“But what are you saying to those who are evicted by their landlords because they can’t afford the rent and who have not got a place to stay?
“If (the college) are saying I must come and write – okay, I will come and write. But first, where must I sleep, and what must I eat?
“Where did I get the water to wash?
“When you ask these questions, they have no answer,” he said.
“A lot of us we come from poor backgrounds,” he said.
Zenzile said the students had met with the college management on Wednesday.
“They said they were not the relevant people to be talking to about those issues.
“Okay, so call the relevant people – even if they have to take a flight from Cape Town,” he said.
“We want those people to come and account – someone must account for this situation.”
He said students wanted an account of what had happened to the bursary funding.
“Give us something in writing from NSFAS,” he said.
Grocott’s Mail was unable to obtain police comment on yesterday’s incident. However, following an earlier strike, on 2 October, Grahamstown Crime Intelligence Officer Captain Milanda Coetzer said police were on constant standby; however, there had been no action, and no arrests.
At the time of going to press, the regional spokesperson for the college, Almarie van der Merwe, had not yet responded to questions from Grocott’s Mail.