Fees protests rock varsities across SA

JOHANNESBURG - By lunchtime on Tuesday a number of universities across the country had been disrupted by protesting students‚ with some closing shop.

This after higher education and training minister Blade Nzimande's 2017 fee increase announcement on Monday reignited student protests over free education and the outsourcing of services.

Students are up in arms over Nzimande's announcement that universities should determine the level of fee adjustments for 2017 themselves‚ as long as this in not above 8%.

With students mobilising and calling for campuses to shut down‚ some institutions on Tuesday closed their doors.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) said in a statement that all its campuses are closed.

"All staff and students at NMMU are advised to stay off all campuses‚ including George and Missionvale‚ today due to student protests in line with a national call to shut down all universities‚" the university said in a statement.

"Essential services will continue‚ but all academic activities have been suspended for today."

The University of the Free State (UFS) has also been shut down‚ management said.

"After much consideration‚ the senior leadership of the UFS decided to close the Bloemfontein and South Campuses on Tuesday 20 September 2016‚" the university said.

The University of Cape Town has suspended all lectures for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Other universities remained resolute in their decisions to continue operations on Tuesday morning‚ however‚ despite growing protests by students.

The University of the Witwatersrand said in a statement that it had received reports that‚ "about 200 students in roving groups are moving from campus to campus disrupting classes in Braamfontein and Parktown and intimidating students".

"We are deploying security and the police to follow the group and we are monitoring the situation on camera from the Joint Operations Centre. Students will be arrested if they do not comply with police orders.

"If lectures are disrupted‚ we ask students and lecturers to leave the venue and then to resume classes once the group has moved on."

Stellenbosch University‚ where students had reportedly blocked the entrances to the Tygerberg campus‚ said‚ "The University is aware of the protest action at the Tygerberg Campus and at the Stellenbosch Campus and the necessary steps are taken to control the situation as best possible. Classes at the Stellenbosch campus not suspended."

The University of Pretoria (UP) is also continuing with classes.

"Despite a few isolated incidents of a small group of students disrupting classes on the UP Hatfield campus last night‚ the academic programme as well as the SRC election will continue as usual today. In cases where tests were disrupted‚ affected students should contact their course coordinators per faculty to make alternative arrangements.

"The University has taken the necessary measures to ensure the safety of students‚ staff and property. We appeal to staff and students to do their part in securing our shared environment‚” it said.

Students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal marched to the Pietermaritzburg legislature to hand over a memorandum."

Students at the University of Fort Hare had stayed away from class but should return now that Vice Chancellor Mvuyo Tom said on Tuesday that the university would not be increasing fees in 2017.

SRC secretary Ricardo Smith had said earlier: "Students do not want an increase ... if he announces a no-fee increase‚ we will go back to classes immediately."

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