Is this the start of Fees Must Fall protests?
As universities prepare to announce fee increases for 2018‚ a swirl of unrest is engulfing some campuses as students speak out against the proposed increments.
On Tuesday a group of students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) threatened to shut down the institution and announced plans to march to parliament on Wednesday to demand the release of a commissioned report on tuition fees.
President Jacob Zuma received the final report of the Heher Commission on the feasibility of free higher education at the end of August. However‚ the report has not been released.
The students at UCT met on Tuesday afternoon and made several demands‚ including free education‚ the immediate release of the Heher report‚ clearance of historical debt for 2017 and no financial barriers to registration for 2018.
Classes were disrupted when the students entered the New Lecture Theatre and several other buildings on the upper campus. Evacuation alarms were set off and buildings were cleared.
The group moved to the Bremner building‚ where it handed over a memorandum to UCT Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price‚ who addressed the group.
Price‚ in a statement on Monday night‚ said the university‚ like all others‚ had to plan its 2018 budget and would normally have concluded consultations on fees with the SRC and other stakeholders by September.
“However‚ not wanting to pre-empt the recommendations of the Fees Commission‚ we have delayed decisions on fees pending the release of the report‚” he said.
“The uncertainty impacts on the ability of students and parents to plan financially for the next year.”
He appealed to President Zuma to release the report for public scrutiny and debate.
The unrest at UCT follows that at the University of the Free State (UFS)‚ where 36 students were arrested last Friday at the Bloemfontein campus after they protested against a proposed 8% fee increase. The students were released on bail on Sunday evening.
Exams at UFS were due to start on Monday‚ but scores of students did not write‚ according to student representative council (SRC) president Asive Dlanjwa.
UFS then allowed students affected by the protests‚ including those who were arrested‚ another week before they could write their exams.
At the University of Pretoria (UP)‚ management met the SRC last Thursday and announced an 8% increase in tuition fees for 2018 to break even at the end of the fiscal year.
“The SRC rejects any form of increase if provisions aren’t made for the 'missing middle' and NSFAS students‚” the UP SRC said in a statement.