Scenes at Univen during the student protests.
Thousands of students at Univen were told this week to vacate the university premises after a week of violent protests.
The protests, which led to skirmishes between the police and students, with many students left injured, also affected schooling for pupils at the nearby Marude Secondary School. They have not seen the inside of a classroom for the past week as there is no access to the school.
The campus and areas outside have been characterised by sporadic stone throwing by angry students and the firing of teargas and rubber bullets by the police in an effort to contain the situation. Roads leading to the campus were also barricaded with burning tyres and other rubble.
The stand-off between the police and the students started last Tuesday, and since then the lack of peace on campus brought everything to a standstill.
Student leader Mr Salman Madina. who is also SRC deputy president, said the whole episode came about when many students were not receiving their monthly stipends from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). He said this had been going on for some time and many students had been left stranded.
“Some have not been receiving their stipends for books, food and accommodation from way back in February this year. It would have been better if they were told they did not qualify, but NSFAS gave them hope,” he said.
Madina said that the student leadership had met with the university management in trying to resolve this issue. “But instead of resolving this, they served us with a letter of intent to suspend us. The worst part of it is that they have also chased the poor students who do not even have money for accommodation and transport out of the campus. We wonder how this would help the situation,” he said.
Madina said that they were worried about the safety of students as many had been injured by the police and the private security company on campus.
University spokesperson Mr Takalani Dzaga said the students had genuine grievances and that the university was busy trying to find ways of resolving the issue. “We are also concerned as a university. There are close to 9 000 students affected who have not received their stipends for some time. We have met with the NSFAS people, but nothing concrete has come out of the meeting, and to show our seriousness, our principal visited the NSFAS offices to find a speedy solution to the problem,” he said.
Dzaga said that they had sent the students home and beefed up security after realizing the situation was getting out of hand, with burnings and a petrol bomb found on campus. He could not indicate as to when the university would open again but said they would assess the situation before taking any decision.
Dzaga also confirmed that letters of intention to suspend had been issued to the SRC after certain procedures were not followed during the protests.
At the time of our going for press, some students had already received their stipends, but the strike had not been called off. The student leadership said the part payments of stipends was a ploy by the authorities for them to suspend the protests.
“We will not repeat our previous mistakes where we suspend the protests and many of our students are left without their allowances. We are showing solidarity to all our students and we will not stop until all are paid,” said Madina.
Date:09 August 2018 - By: Elmon Tshikhudo
Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and has since been a familiar name among the newspaper's readers.