University of KwaZulu-Natal students have been protesting this week against changes to the requirements for accessing financial aid and increases to registration fees. The Daily Vox Team visited UKZN’s Westville campus to ask students how they feel about the changes and the protests they’ve sparked.
Njabulo Mthalane, 19, 1st year business administration student
We are all from different backgrounds and mine is one that wouldn’t allow me to study without financial aid. I was lucky to get funding; I am solely dependent on financial aid and my course requires us to pass 100% of our modules in order to qualify for financial aid next year. It is impossible to reach that standard because we write exams in short time intervals. I am however not in support of the vandalism of the premises because the administration block is one of the most important parts of the university; most documents are kept there. I’m hoping for management to meet us half way with our demands – not to make such a huge increase in registration fees and financial aid requirements.
Thabiso Zulu, 19, 1st year biochemistry student
I am not into student politics, but I am also currently on financial aid. I am a hard worker and I feel like I will make it through the year with the proposed passing requirements in order to get financial aid. The strike has disturbed my studies because I was supposed to write tests this week. I am against the registration fee increment; it is unreasonable and the protest might have to go on longer because that affects everyone, even those who are not on financial aid. I hope management listens to students eventually, because it looks like that is the only way that the protests will stop.
*Lindokuhle Ntombela, 23, final year pharmacy student
I heard bullet sounds and noises on Sunday evening and when I got to know what the commotion was about, I understood and supported their demands even though I was not there personally. I am not on financial aid, so one would think that I couldn’t care less what happens to my fellow students, but I do. I have friends who are on financial aid and some of my friends have been excluded from getting an education because they could not get funding. In terms of the fee increment, it is ridiculous because they always increase registration fees. They have already increased them earlier this year and now they will be up to R5,000. Management should just take the students’ grievances into consideration because judging by the amount of damage the students have caused, it shows that they mean business and will not back down.
*Gugulethu Mthembu, 24, final year pharmacy student
A lot of people are not going to afford the new registration fees, because they can’t afford it already. If it increases, a lot of students will be affected. I’m not promoting failure, but with this increased pass rate, it’s like they want to exclude learners because they know that not all of them will reach the standard that the university sets. At the beginning of the year, students always have issues with getting NSFAS [funding] and now they want to make it difficult to keep being funded by financial aid because of these new requirements. I will keep on supporting the protest until students get at least a part of their demands.
Silindokuhle Nkosi, 19, biological sciences student
This is quite an inconvenience because this week I had to write two tests, one of which has been cancelled. I was not looking forward to writing it after schools reopen but now I have no choice. With the current situation, I think they are being reasonable in a way because they are trying to get the message across but I think they have taken it a bit too far in terms of burning and destroying the premises. It was hard to register this year because the registration fees had increased from last year. I hope that the students’ needs are met because after all that’s happened, they should be able to get something out of it.
Carol Matukane, 19, 1st year biological sciences student
I think the new requirements for financial aid are unfair. Students work very hard to get the minimum 50% and sometimes they do not even make it. So now, if they increase [the pass rate required to get financial aid] from 50% to 70%, they just want to exclude learners from getting funding because not everyone will meet that requirement. That will lead to students dropping out. They are on financial aid because they can’t afford university fees on their own. If [UKZN] want to implement this, then it means that to them that education is no longer about inspiring greatness but just inspiring those who can afford it.
Samuel Amoni, 22, 3rd year business administration student
The university is making decisions without incorporating the students. The students have a valid point on protesting against the increase of registration money because everyone is affected by it. I am a part-time student, but I am also affected because I run a shop on campus, so everything has come to a halt due to these protests. On the other hand, financial aid is already helping students to study towards their desired careers; the least they can do in return is show commitment by excelling in their studies. If not, then someone else should be given that opportunity and I think that is the message that management is trying to get across.