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Protesting Students Demand Resolutions Before Returning to Classes at UKZN

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Protesting Students Demand Resolutions Before Returning to Classes at UKZN

Protesting Students Demand Resolutions Before Returning to Classes at UKZN. Students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in Pietermaritzburg are standing their ground, insisting that they will not attend contact classes until their concerns are addressed. This follows an email from the university announcing the resumption of contact classes, which had been moved online due to ongoing protests. Instead of subsiding, these protests gained momentum on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

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Students Express Outrage Over Nsfas Payment Approach, Sparking Protests

At the heart of the student protest lies their strong opposition to the new direct payment system introduced by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas). Departing from the prior practice, Nsfas now employs external suppliers to manage payments, sidelining the university administration. Since its implementation in June, this approach has left students dissatisfied, leading to incomplete monthly allowances for accommodation and living expenses. The situation has escalated to the point that some students in private accommodations are facing eviction due to unpaid rent.

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Resolute Students Reject Return to Classes Amid Ongoing Discontent

Students convened recently to reiterate their commitment to staying away from classes until their grievances are effectively addressed. Kwandile Mchunu, Chairperson of the EFF student council branch, firmly stated that they will not resume classes until their demands are met. Mchunu’s remarks underscore the students’ dissatisfaction with the university’s response to their demands, characterizing it as dismissive and uncooperative.

Increased Campus Presence and Ongoing Negotiations

The situation on campus intensified, leading to the presence of armed police and police vehicles monitoring the premises. University administrators emphasize that the decision to resume contact teaching and learning has been made after careful consideration of relevant factors and consultations with stakeholders, including the Student Representative Council (SRC) executive committee.

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External Intervention Sought by Students for Grievance Redressal

Seeking resolution beyond the campus, students have formally reached out to the South African Human Rights Commission to investigate potential rights violations at UKZN. Furthermore, students intend to engage the national leadership of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a significant political party, to highlight what they perceive as attempts by the administration to suppress their activism.

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University Perspective on Class Resumption

Normah Zondo, Executive Director of Corporate Relations at UKZN, underscores the seamless resumption of contact teaching and learning activities across all campuses except Pietermaritzburg, where sporadic interruptions persist due to ongoing protests. Zondo clarifies that the shift to online learning was a strategic choice aimed at preserving the academic program’s integrity in the dynamic landscape of higher education.

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Conclusion

UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg campus remains embroiled in student protests as demonstrators persistently withhold their return to contact classes, seeking resolutions for grievances related to the new Nsfas payment method and other concerns. This ongoing movement underscores students’ determination to assert their rights and advocate for solutions to perceived injustices.

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