City college students protest over unpaid accommodation fees
STUDENTS from Moremogolo College are uncertain whether they will be able to continue with their studies next year as they have unpaid accommodation fees.
The students said that the police had fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at them while they were protesting outside the campus yesterday morning.
Some of the students claimed that they had to offer their landlords sexual favours in return for allowing them to stay on the premises if they were unable to honour their rental agreements.
“Our parents are forced to borrow money from loan sharks to settle the accounts. Young women are being forced to sell their bodies like prostitutes so that they can have somewhere to stay while they are studying. Other landlords are withholding students’ belongings if they have outstanding rental payments, while others have been evicted. We will not be able to complete our courses if we have nowhere to stay,” said the students.
The students said that they had to write their exams while in a “traumatised state” yesterday.
“We only burnt tyres outside the campus and were being peaceful. We were called baboons and k****** just before the stun grenade was fired. One student was choked and told to delete footage of the protest. We will be opening a case with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.”
They indicated that three students had “collapsed” while they were busy writing their exams.
“We were all in a state of shock. One student was shot three times with rubber bullets but returned to write after receiving medical attention. One student was physically removed out of the exam room while he was busy writing and arrested for public violence. We had to write our exams despite feeling shaken and traumatised, because otherwise we will not pass the year.”
They added that the hostel would be closed next year for renovations.
“NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) only settled the payment for students being accommodated at the college hostel accommodation. It will be more of a struggle to secure a place to stay next year as there is already a shortage of accommodation and we will not be able to rent if the current academic year’s rent has not been paid to the landlords.”
They said that only some students had received payment or part payment from NSFAS.
“This is while the National Student Financial Aid Scheme approved the accommodation. The travel allowances are also outstanding and those of us who are residing outside the Province do not know how we will get home for Christmas.”
The students stated that they had walked from Galeshewe to the Northern Cape Urban TVET College offices in Long Street last week to meet with the principal.
“Management was not available although we had scheduled a meeting. We were told to call NSFAS ourselves to find out what was happening to the accommodation. The student representative council is not assisting us so we are completely on our own.”
The principal of the Northern Cape Urban TVET College, Brian Madalane, claimed that the protesters were not students.
“They can be viewed as opportunists who threatened and prevented students from entering the campus and writing their exams. The crowd even threw stones at college personnel,” said Madalane.
“The protest leaders were threatening, swearing, shouting and throwing stones at personnel. This behaviour is displayed regularly during protests … even rudeness towards teaching staff and management. The college appreciates the support from the SAPS.”
Madalane pointed out that the exams were national papers.
“If students do not write, it threatens the future of those who want to write. The exams were threatened but not disrupted.”
He added that students were expected to obtain private accommodation next year as the college hostels were currently uninhabitable.
“The hostels will be closed for renovations next year. This decision was taken in the interest of the safety of students and staff occupying hostels. Students were informed of this reality well in advance.”
He encouraged any student who was coerced into engaging in sexual favours to urgently report the matter to the police.
“The college does not condone abuse against women and children.”
He indicated that there was no record of the requested meeting between management and students last week, although one student had met with senior management on Wednesday.
Madalane added that NSFAS was responsible for the payment of allowances including the provision of private accommodation.
“The college cannot respond on behalf of NSFAS regarding non-payment or any of their other competencies. Students demanded that NSFAS pay their allowances directly and not through the college. All NSFAS recipients have personal credentials to access their records and trace payments with NSFAS via the MyNSFAS portal. Posters have been placed at strategic places across campuses to assist students with steps to follow to get access. The college is not involved in the payment of allowances.”
Police spokesperson Captain Bashoabile Kale said a 29-year-old male student was arrested on charges of public violence, incitement and intimidation.
“Students were burning tyres at the gate that was locked with a padlock. They became riotous after someone offered to unlock the gate and students started entering the campus. The police fired rubber bullets when stones were flung at them. One student was injured but refused to be assisted by the police,” said Kale.
He indicated that the allegations of students being sworn at and called names were fabricated by the students while the police were trying to negotiate with them.