Fort Hare students picket over ‘lack of plan to salvage 2020 academic year’

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Student bodies at the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape have accused management of having no plan in place to salvage the 2020 academic year. South African Students Congress (SASCO), the EFF Student Command, COPE and others called on students to picket over this as well as the alleged lack of classes for online teaching.

University students across the country have been learning online since the nationwide lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the hashtag save UFH Academic Year, the student leaders held a picket at the university on Friday, calling for students to join in on social media and on the East London and Alice campuses whilst observing lockdown regulations. The student activists say they have been patient with management while their complaints have not been attended to.

The students allege that they have not been provided with data or laptops and have not had online classes. In June, senior management and the Student Representative Council at the institution returned for an inspection of facilities while, in a letter to students and staff, the university says data has been provided for some students while the delivery of laptops is expected in the first week of this month.

Students have threatened to go back to their residence while calling on Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande to intervene.

Walter Sisulu University students are also expressing concern that they’re losing this academic year because of the lockdown.

SRC member at WSU Sipho Sizani says: “ The only issue we are crying about as the SRC was the issue of non-funded students who were going to be left behind in the process of online learning. Now they have committed to assist that group of students. Even us as SRC we will use our budget to assist that group of students where we can.”

While the University of Fort Hare declined to comment, Walter Sisulu University spokesperson, Yonela Tukwayo says they are doing their all they can to salvage the year.

“As WSU we have escalated our laptop distribution to the students as well as the distribution of data so that students can continue with online learning. We did have some challenges in acquiring laptops as you can imagine other institutions want them as well and we have a huge number of students that are funded by NSFAS and we need to distribute all those laptops to them.”