Universities South Africa (USAf) says it is concerned by the damage to the academic programmes and the infrastructure of many of institutions around the country by student protesters.
The FeesMustFall campaign first started nationwide in October last year. The movement was re-ignited last week after Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said that universities must determine their own fee increments for the 2017 academic year.
Nzimande placed a cap of 8% on increases and stated that poorer students would not be affected by the hikes. The news however, was not welcomed with students demanding free tertiary education.
The protests have intensified this week with many institutions forced to close their doors in fear of the safety of staff and students. This has left institutions vulnerable to attack.
The latest such attack took place on Monday when the entrance to the William O’Brien residence at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) Pietermaritzburg campus was set alight – the fire gutted the turnstile and the communal room alongside the entrance.
USAf said in a statement on Monday: “There is growing anxiety that the academic project of 2016 is in serious jeopardy. While we are committed to the idea that students have every right to engage in protests and activism in their quest for fee-free higher education, we are also increasingly despairing of the nature of these protests.
“Damage sustained by the university sector in the last year due to student protests is estimated to have now exceeded the R600 million mark,” it said.
That number has doubled from a figure of R300 million in damage done to 14 universities released by the Department of Higher Education and Training in April.
The breakdown of the damage to April included the following:
|Rhodes University||R250 000|
|University of Johannesburg||R345 000|
|Walter Sisulu University||R351 287|
|Universities of Stellenbosch||R352 000|
|Cape Peninsula University of Technology||R689 850|
|Wits University||R1 410 223|
|Limpopo||R1 786 294|
|Free State University||R2 800 000|
|University of Cape Town||R3 200 000|
|University of Zululand||R4 500 000|
|Tshwane University of Technology||R5 073 747|
|Universitie of KwaZulu Natal||R82 000 000|
|University of the Western Cape||R46 544 446|
|North West||R151 000 000|
The costs above do not include the latest round of destruction, nor the burning down of the UJ Auditorium in May which is estimated to have done a further R100 million in damages.
Minister Nzimande noted at the time that the University of South Africa, Central University of Technology, Durban University of Technology and University of Fort Hare had their property damaged, but have not as yet quantified the cost of damage.
USAf’s CEO, Professor Ahmed Bawa said: “Given the interim nature of the Minister’s intervention, the current shutdown at some institutions is extremely difficult to understand.”
The ANC warned on Monday that certain elements appeared to have hijacked the genuine demands of students, following the discovery of three petrol bombs at the University of the Witwatersrand.