As angry protesting Walter Sisulu University (WSU) students continue with their demonstrations in the East London city centre and surroundings, the university has warned of a possible temporary campus closure.
There were reports of traffic being obstructed in some parts of Southernwood and Oxford streets on Wednesday evening and yesterday morning as the students burned trash.
Students from the Buffalo City Campus (BCC), which has sites at Chiselhurst, Potsdam, College Street and Cambridge Street, as well as the Heritage and Absa Stadium, have been boycotting class for the last 10 days.
When the Dispatch arrived in Southernwood around mid-morning at least 800 students were marching on Lukin Road, with about 10 police vehicles keeping watch.
In King and St James streets police could be seen at two spots putting out burning trash.
Around midday, some of the students got onto three buses, making their way to the Potsdam campus for a mass meeting.
There are 7200 students enrolled at these campus sites.
Yesterday, the university requested students return to class. However, the students intensified the protest by going to all campus sites to ensure no classes were taking place.
Some of the students’ grievances include:
l Failure of some students to receive National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) meal and food allowances;
l Poor living conditions at residences; and
l Lack of security at some residences.
WSU SRC student service officer Samkelo Mqayi said the university’s vice-chancellor, Rob Midgley had been “negligent and ignorant” towards their plight.
“Instead of addressing and resolving problems affecting the masses, Midgley decided to entertain the minority, who decided they wanted to go back to class.
“That is not how it is done, Midgley needs to address and resolve the issues before we can go back to class,” said Mqayi.
Mqayi said the new online NSFAS student-centred model that was recently introduced by the scheme was a “headache”.
The new model enables NSFAS to manage a direct relationship with the applicants and NSFAS-funded students.
“According to the NSFAS system some student registration records are outstanding. That is negligence on the university’s part,” said Mqayi.
Mqayi also bemoaned the state of accommodation, saying some of the student digs did not meet the requirements set by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) but they were accredited.
In a midweek statement Midgley said should disruptions, which halted administrative and academic activities at the BCC campus continue, management would have no option but to consider closing the campus.
“Management cannot support a particular small group of students who are behaving unlawfully at the expense and detriment of those who want to continue with their studies.
“This situation cannot continue to prevail. Management believes that lawful interests should be prioritised over unlawful ones, but if this cannot be achieved, it will have to consider more drastic steps to restore calm to the campus,” said Midgley.