Students at Free State institutions of higher learning vow to continue protesting

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Students from various higher learning institutions in Bloemfontein have vowed to continue with their protest action until the national government agrees to their demand of making higher education accessible to all deserving students. Students from the University of the Free State, the Central University of Technology, and Motheo TVET College in Bloemfontein say they will continue to protest until all student issues are resolved.

Traffic came to a halt in the Bloemfontein CBD as Motheo TVET College students marched from the college premises to the premier’s office to hand over a list of demands. The students are accusing the college management of, among other things, not providing them with the necessary tools while they are expected to study from home.

The students also want the institutions to help speed-up the distribution of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds.

“We are gathered here as students to address the fact that the management is corrupt, they promised us laptops, results, and NSFAS money but we still have not gotten one of those. The problem is whenever we send our problems to them, to SRC or to the offices they are swept under the rug. They are not being adhered to; we have to adhere to COVID-19 measures. They promised us that we will use laptops and computers but there’s no space and we come from different backgrounds. These students don’t have enough money to buy accessories, data, and textbooks,” says one of the students.

Students want to be allowed to register:

The Students’ Representative Council (SRC) at the University of the Free State is calling for the resignation of the institution’s Vice-Chancellor and Rector Professor Francis Petersen.

SRC President, Katleho Lechoo, says they will deliver a memorandum of grievances to the university management. Lechoo says they will continue protesting until their demands for students to be registered and have their historical debt cleared, are addressed.

“Our issues are many,  number one is the arrogance that is portrayed by the management of the University of Free State Professor Francis Peterson included and of course we are fighting ranging issues as far as academic exclusion and financial exclusion, access to campus to enable our students to register because the online system has proven from time to time that is not working.  So, we are saying as the Student Representatives Council, it cannot be business as usual while the primary stakeholders of our institutions are suffering,” says Lechoo.

The SRC at the Central University of Technology says they will continue to try to engage with management amidst resistance. Interim SRC President Moses Ntonyane says they have sent an email to management last week to request to meet with them over issues affecting students.

“We have said imposing the upfront payment on students is an opportunity for criminals to take money from students, because the criminals would come to a student an say,’ give me a thousand rand, I will help you register for free. Give me four thousand I help you register for free’. With that being said we are saying as the call of SASCO national and EFF student command, we are going to comply with the call of the structures I’ve mentioned.”

The University of the Free State’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Francis Petersen, says a permanent solution to student funding should be found in order to move forward.

“But one of the things that we should certainly bring across, I presume some other regions have, is to say how can we look at a sustainable student financial model. Because we can’t have every year the disruptions at higher education institutions and you can’t have somebody that is academically qualifying and they don’t have money to study and they’re not given the opportunity to study because that is not fair.”

Protests are expected to continue throughout the country.