#FeesMustFall forces varsities’ shutdown

Campuses of the University of the Free State, the Central University of Technology, the North West University, and the Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley were forced to shut down this week due to continuing protests by students. PHOTOS: MARK STEENBOK/MOEKETSI MOGOTSI

The #FeesMustFall Campaign has spiralled into a second week of disruptions as universities across the country were forced to shut down campuses this week. This includes all campuses of the University of the Free State (UFS), the Central University of Technology (CUT), the North West University (NWU), and the Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley.
The UFS has closed all three its campuses on Tuesday for another week. Spokesperson, Lacea Loader, said academic and administrative services were stopped for the day, even though the institution had hoped on Monday that it would be business as usual by this week.
The newly-founded Free Education Movement had other plans and after spending Monday night at a vigil on the UFS’s Thakaneng Bridge, they intercepted students, staff and students arriving on campus, throwing a spanner in the works of management.
However, leaders of the Free Education Movement told Courant that fears of violence at the UFS are totally unfounded.
Plans to resume academic activities at the University of the Free State didn’t take into account the resolve of students demanding a government commitment toward free education in their lifetime. Nor did they anticipate the well-executed plans of the Free Education movement, led by Asive Dlanjwa.
“We went on to ensure no tests were written. A lot of semester tests were supposed to be written today (Tuesday).
But this time, to avoid confrontation, we went to the venues before the students could get there. We told them to go back since no tests would be written or lectures would be held. Some of those students have gone home and others have joined us.”
And though most of the students appear to support the call for free education, some were genuinely conflicted about the lack of academics at the UFS.
The Free Education Movement members said they are also frustrated by the fact that their academic performance might suffer. However, they believe the end justifies the means, and their goal is not the unrealistic introduction of immediate free education, but rather a commitment from government to come to the table.
Meanwhile, academic activities at the NWU’s Vaal Triangle Campus in Vereeniging have been suspended for the rest of the week. University spokesperson, Louis Jacobs, said the campus will only reopen on 10 October after a short recess at most institutions, starting tomorrow (30 September).
According to Jacobs, management took a decision on Monday to suspend academic activities after petrol bombs had been thrown at the main gate of the campus.
The NWU’s Mafikeng Campus will also only reopen on 10 October, while activities on the Potchefstroom Campus will continue as usual for the rest of the week.
At the Sol Plaatje University, Vice-Chancellor Yunus Ballin met with the Student Representative Council on Tuesday discussing the way forward. He said the issues related to fees were also on the agenda as well as when the academic programme would continue.
An education expert and adjunct professor at the Wits School of Governance, Mary Metcalfe, said it is important that a space for rational discourse and discussion is continuously pursued.
She said she liked the Vice-Chancellor and principal of the University of the Witwatersrand Adam Habib’s proposal that there should be different spaces for more students to talk about their problems and solutions, including a referendum.
At the time Courant went to print, the situation at the Bloemfontein campus of the UFS had calmed down considerably but remained tense. – NEWS TEAM