Higher education minister Naledi Pandor on Monday expressed concern at the disruptions reported at several KwaZulu-Natal institutions of higher learning.
The students’ concerns are believed to be related to the ongoing issue of a shortage of student accommodation and NSFAS funding.
In a statement, Pandor called on students to refrain from disrupting schooling.
“It will severely affect the academic year, resulting in many not being able to finish their degrees on time, if ever,” Pandor said.
On Monday‚ lectures were violently brought to a halt at UKZN‚ as well as the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT)‚ where protesting students clashed with security and police.
UKZN acting vice-chancellor and principal Prof Nana Poku said that in light of the provincial shutdown of all universities‚ the executive management had taken a decision to suspend the academic programme with immediate effect until further notice.
“We have received the memorandum from the UKZN SRC‚ which we are actively working through to try to address the issues being raised. The suspension allows us space to engage the student leadership and deal with the issues while ensuring the safety and security of all concerned‚” said Poku.
MUT had not announced a suspension of their academic programmes at the time of publishing, but DUT management said lectures had been halted and would resume on Thursday.
MUT’s senior director of marketing and communications‚ Mbali Mkhize‚ said they had noted with concern “inciting messages of mass student protests” by individuals who seemed intent on destroying the gains made by the SRC and management in resolving student issues‚ including fee concessions and allowances.
Pandor said her department was willing to assist the different institutions which were facing challenges and directed her department officials, led by the Director-General to provide the necessary support to all affected institutions,
She said she had directed the NSFAS administrator to prioritise providing responses to all student queries, and has been assured that every query is being addressed urgently.
“I urge all student organisations to focus on real student concerns and to make every effort to resolve problems without impacting on the academic programme” Pandor said.