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Hungry and homeless

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Protest action interrupted tests in preparation for the exams.

Due to National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds that were not paid out for accommodation, catering and transport, students are being evicted from private residences.

HUNGRY and homeless Northern Cape TVET College students at the Phatsimang campus embarked on protest action again yesterday, where tests in preparation for the exams were disrupted.

Due to National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funds that were not paid out for accommodation, catering and transport, students are being evicted from private residences.

The SA Students Congress (Sasco) branch chairperson at the Phatsimang campus, Mkhululi Mtonxa, said that the students were desperate for food.

“They are doing things that they are not supposed to … I cannot go into the details. Students can’t write on an empty stomach or when they have been thrown out of their homes and have been left with nowhere to stay. Some of the landlords have even confiscated the clothes of students who are in arrears with their rent,” said Mtonxa.

He said that they had managed to “squeeze” a few of the evicted students into the hostel.

“They are sleeping on the floor. How are they expected to study under these conditions? We do not know if we are being treated like this because we are dependent on funding for our studies.”

Mtonxa added that no action was being taken to address the drastic drop in the pass rate.

“The pass rate dropped from 63 percent to 14 percent – it looks like the principal wants to close this college down. He has never come to address the students. If we do not write the tests in September, we will not have a year mark and ultimately we will not be able to sit for our year-end exams in November. We hold management accountable if we fail this year. Students are being disrespected.”

Mtonxa stated that a meeting was planned between the principal and the student representative council (SRC) for 11am yesterday morning.

“This was only to find out that the principal, Brian Madalane, was not in town yesterday. He did send all the students SMS messages to go back to class.”

Mtonxa indicated that changes in policy were introduced where students who have not passed all their subjects are forced to pass all their subjects before progressing to the next level. “Students have to repeat one subject for an entire six months before they are permitted to progress to the next level, while NSFAS does not fund a student with only one subject.”

Students believe that management is dividing them and that there is maladministration of funds.

“The NSFAS funds are deposited directly into the account of the college so we do not know where the money is being diverted. This is while the SRC was suspended by management and meetings are being held with NSFAS without any student representation.”

They added that they had problems with the exam timetables. “We have to go in the morning to check the exam schedules (on the notice board). We have no idea what time we are writing and have no means of transport to leave and come back again. This means that we have to sit and wait until 4pm or 5pm before we can write.”

The students also called for the hostel to be inspected by emergency services and the Human Rights Commission.

“There is non-compliance with health and safety regulations as well as fire hazards. There is only one fire extinguisher in an entire block of flats. There is also no evacuation plan in the event of a fire or disaster. They tell us that they will ‘look into it’ when we ask to have the toilets and rooms cleaned.”