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Why Universities Are Protesting



Why Universities Are Protesting

Why Universities Are Protesting. South Africa higher education sector, comprising over a million students, is currently facing a series of disruptions that have impeded the smooth operation of academic activities across various universities. Despite efforts by the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande to ensure a seamless start to the 2024 academic year, protests have erupted in several institutions, shedding light on the underlying issues plaguing the system.

Delays in Funding Disbursement: A Major Concern

Central to the ongoing protests is the delay in the disbursement of funds from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). Thousands of university and TVET students find themselves in limbo as they await vital financial support. While NSFAS aims to fund over a million students in 2024, bureaucratic hurdles have hindered the timely distribution of funds. Without these allowances, students face challenges in meeting basic needs such as accommodation, food, and transportation, exacerbating their financial strain.

Violent Protests And Property Damage

The frustration over funding delays boiled over at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), where violent protests erupted, resulting in significant damage to university property. Similar scenes unfolded at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), where students voiced grievances ranging from NSFAS allowance delays to concerns over inadequate residence spaces and registration processes. These incidents underscore the mounting frustrations among students who depend on financial assistance to pursue their academic aspirations.

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Labour Disputes Complicate Matters Further

Labour disputes have further complicated the situation, adding another layer of complexity. At the University of Pretoria (UP), negotiations over salary increases reached an impasse, leading to tensions between university management and staff members. Efforts to find common ground have faltered, leaving the university community in a state of uncertainty. To prevent disruptions, UP has taken legal action against striking workers to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning activities.

Accommodation Shortages And Appeals Processing Delays

Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) continues to grapple with accommodation shortages and delays in appeals processing, exacerbating the challenges faced by students. Despite temporary measures such as housing students in hotels, the situation remains precarious for those in need of housing and academic support. Delays in appeals processing have left many students without accommodation or access to transportation, further hindering their ability to register and participate in academic activities.


Strikes Over Salary Increases

University staff strikes over salary increases have disrupted operations at institutions like the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch University. While strikes at UCT have ended, Stellenbosch University faces accommodation shortages due to over-enrollment, prompting temporary solutions to accommodate students while they finalize their registration.

Demand for Free Education

Meanwhile, minor disruptions occurred at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) as students demanded free education. However, university authorities have opted not to engage with unrecognized student structures, aiming to maintain order and prioritize academic continuity.


The protests and disruptions at South African universities highlight systemic issues such as funding delays, labour disputes, accommodation shortages, and demands for free education. Addressing these challenges requires collaborative efforts between government stakeholders, university administrations, staff, and students to ensure the stability and sustainability of higher education in the country.

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