Students flush away our varsity millions

31 October 2016 - 08:19 By STAFF REPORTERS

Universities have begun tallying the cost of this year's #FeesMustFall protests, with one estimate placing property damage alone at R1-billion. Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande estimated in September that property damage was around R600-million since the beginning of the 2015 fees protests.The police have confirmed spending over R3-million on overtime in Gauteng alone. They would not provide figures for the overtime bills in other provinces.''People must not just equate it to a lot of money spent . but consider how much damage students would have caused if the police weren't there," said Thapelo Moiloa, spokesman for the Gauteng department of community safety. "It was necessary and it was money well spent.Fees protests a ticking time bomb Simphiwe Dana participated in a Fees Must Fall protest at the University of the Witwatersrand. This is her account of what she experienced.''Police resources have been stretched. We have had to bring in officers from other police stations. We have had to put aside other priorities to focus on the protests. There will be a lot of backlogs to deal with," said Moiloa.Sasria SOC Ltd has confirmed paying out R134-million to universities for damages during last year's student protests, while an additional R170-million has been reserved for damages incurred earlier this year. Mahlangu said Sasria was still calculating the latest damages.Thokozile Mahlangu, the association's executive manager for stakeholder management, said claims were usually for damage to lecture halls, labs, libraries and books, and cars on the campus.Not just growth -- quality counts tooGoing through the medium-term budget and listening to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's rather "presidential" address, it became clear that the closest thing to a silver bullet for our economic troubles is to somehow find a way to improve economic growth.Universities of South Africa CEO Ahmed Bawa estimated the cost of property damage as a result of fees protests at "anywhere between R700-million and R1-billion".When the Sanlam auditorium at the University of Johannesburg was burned down the figure had reached about R500-million, Bawa said."It's a crazy situation."Bawa said recent attempts by students to target university libraries were "disconcerting"."It's not clear whether the attacks on residences are because they are a soft target or because there's an attempt to undermine the capacity of universities to maintain their academic programmes. The residences are fundamental to [ the functioning of a university]," said Bawa.Wits Council calls on Zuma to deal with tertiary education crisisThe chronic underfunding of the higher education sector in the last two decades requires the immediate attention of those at the highest levels of government‚ the University of the Witwatersrand's Council said on Friday.The Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the University of the Western Cape, and the University of KwaZulu-Natal have had considerable property damage inflicted on them.UKZN has estimated damages of around R60-million.Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University spokesman Zandile Mbabela said the gutting of the Xanadu/Melodi clubhouse, and of the large hall at the campus boma, made up most of the estimated damages of R6.7-million in recent weeks.Lauren Kansley, spokesman for the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, said it was not yet possible to estimate the damage costs.Harold Maloka, spokesman for the Department of Higher Education and Training, also said it was too early to specify damages.The Times asked universities to estimate property damage resulting from recent fees protests.The University of Johannesburg estimates it will cost R120-million to repair an auditorium and computer lab torched in May. A number of arson attempts in the past two weeks were detected before serious damage was caused.Wits reports the cost of repairing damages caused by protests this year until September at R412,000. This excludes the estimate for damages to a lecture hall, approximately R1.3-million.North West University's Mafikeng campus damages in October 2015 amounted to R743734. Damages in February this year amounted to R52.6-million.In August the senate building and several cars were torched on the Westville campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The law library and a coffee shop were set alight at Howard College. In Pietermaritzburg, an exam hall was damaged and the William O'Brien residence was set alight.Nine vehicles were set alight on the main campus of the University of Zululand.

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