While all eyes were on the Wits University students’ protest, on 9 March 2021 a group of students at Ekurhuleni East College (EEC) Springs Campus (on the Eastrand of Gauteng) engaged in a protest outside their campus that was organised by the college’s Student Representative Council (SRC). The protest was led by their former SRC President and SRC members.
Students from EEC Springs Campus embarked on another demonstration the next day, on 10 March, in solidarity with all students who still have debts with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), or who are waiting for funding from NSFAS for fees and accommodation. They went back to protest to also express their frustration about how some classes had already commenced while there was still a big issue with late registrations. Because of the demonstrations classes were disrupted and the College also had the KwaThema Campus on standby in case the protests spread there as well.
The demonstration did then move to the KwaThema Campus when students marched from Springs to KwaThema to deliver a memorandum to one of the campus managers. The campus manager refused to come out and meet the students, making many angry. The memorandum’s demands were simple: debt clearance; processing of all applications for funding and the use of abandoned buildings nearby for accommodation. Both campus managers were given till Wednesday, 24 March 2021 to respond. Until this date, students have demanded that no one is to attend the College in the Springs or KwaThema campus. If the protesting students do not receive their responses and their demands are not met, they have promised to continue with their demonstration.
Every year at the beginning of the first semester, students are called to come for registrations. It is always a frustrating experience for first year students and this year was no different. Many students of EEC Springs Campus went to register at the campus and were told they could not register due to unpaid fees by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) as promised. Many students were turned back and told that they owe last year’s fees and that they can’t register whilst still owing the college 50% of their fees. “This is a very frustrating time and it is sad that the government yet again doesn’t prioritise us as students,” says Mokoena*, a student at EEC (*not his real name).
Students were told that their results were delayed due to the delay in matric results and the anxiety of a third wave meant their marks were also delayed. There was also a delay with the ordering of textbooks and ECC is still waiting for them to be delivered.
With the first terms’ exams approaching quickly, the students are worried about the fact that they don’t have lecturers assigned to some of their classes. This means that all the students awaiting their results are not in class as we speak and yet classes are continuing. It also means that they will not have space in class since there is only a certain number allowed to be in class daily due to COVID-19 restrictions and the classes are already full. This again proves how government institutions mistreat their students and that it isn’t prioritising TVET Colleges.
Some learners have been experiencing problems with the university system itself. When checking for their results on the system, they found that their results are still pending while others said their results reflected that they were absent, meaning they got a zero for that particular exam. These are students who have evidence that they entered the exam room, signing in and out when handing in their exam papers.
According to a reliable source who wished to stay anonymous, EEC’s Deputy Principal together with the SRC of the college and other selected students recently met to discuss this pressing issue. In this meeting, they allegedly came to the conclusion that students who receive their results and have passed but can’t register because of unpaid fees should not worry about it because their applications got to NSFAS late but that the fees would be paid. While Minister of Higher Education has also recently claimed that funds will now be released through NSFAS, it remains to be seen when and how long this process will take.
This article was submitted on 19 March 2021. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.