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SASCO NMU announces immediate mass protest until further notice

May 2, 2018
SASCO NMU announces immediate mass protest until further notice

The South African Students Congress (SASCO) at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday announced that it was mobilising students to immediately go on a mass protest as of the 02nd of May 2018, until further notice.

SASCO said that, together with the Student Representatives Council (SRC), it has been engaging the university management on many institutional developments, but is of the view that the student representatives are not being taken seriously by the university.

"The longstanding policy position of SASCO has been crystal clear on the central issue facing higher education today: the demand for free higher education for the children of the working class and poor. This demand arose from our recognition of the vast social inequalities inherited from three centuries of colonialism and apartheid that creates unacceptable barriers to entry into higher education," the organisation said in a statement.

"This historical commitment to the needs of the working class and poor is consistent with our understanding of the role of the working class as the motive force of the national democratic revolution which seeks to create a more equal, non-sexist, non-racial and democratic society."

SASCO added that it recognizes the announcement made by the ANC-led Government on the 16th of December 2017, in favour of a system of free higher education for the poor.

"But SASCO has also been deeply concerned over the slow and unequal pace of its implementation. It is totally unacceptable that it is taking so long for this announcement to be implemented.

"Whilst SASCO welcomes the announcement that there would be free education in 2018, we still do not yet have a fully functional system of free higher education for the working class and the poor. We are concerned about the time gap between the announcement in 2017 and the implementation of the said announcement," it added.

"SASCO believes that government, universities, together with the private sector should be more creative in finding ways of implementing this announcement so that students, particularly those that are already in the system, are able to receive their various allowances and support material to participate in academic activities from an equal footing."

On Financial Aid:

SASCO said that it is extremely concerned about the expectation of the university for poor students "to continue with academic activities under the atrocious conditions under which we find ourselves as so far as financial aid is concerned".

"We are of the view that the university must play a proactive role in making sure that conditions of success are created for the poor and the working class," it said.

"It cannot be that a certain group of students are expected to continue with tests, exams and assignments without textbooks, meals and the relevant support material they would have received from NSFAS."

On Safety and Security:

The organisation said that they also have serious concerns around safety and the operations of the Protection Services department at the university.

"We strongly believe that this department has collapsed completely. We cannot accept that our campuses have become spaces where women are being raped and harassed, students are being robbed and unauthorised personnel are walking around our campuses with arms. Our view is that this department needs to be restructured both at an operational and strategic level."

SASCO said that the university needs to urgently fast-track the process of the reintegration of workers in this department.

"We believe that most of the problems in this department are caused by the low morale that is amongst workers and that this morale can never be resuscitated under the leadership of Derrick Heubsch, we therefore call on the immediate replacement in the directorship of that department, even if it is through a temporal appointment of a different head."

On Shuttle Services:

SASCO said that shuttle services in the university are in a state of collapse.

"There is a serious lack in the effectiveness and efficiency of our shuttle services; which directly impacts the poor black majority and particularly women. The shortage of shuttles directly impacts the safety of women that are left with no option but to walk to their various residences and are sometimes left stranded in an environment that is unsafe and they are consistently victimised," it described.

"Our view is that the university should’ve, at the end of last year, prepared itself to increase shuttles for the 2018 academic year. It cannot be, that an increase of students was not foreseen by university management after the announcement of free, quality education."

On Residences:

SASCO said that the failure of the NSFAS system to respond to the students specifically in off-campus properties has resulted in a situation whereby the students are continuously abused by residence managers of having to pay rent whilst they are still waiting for their funding.

"Many off-campus students have received threats from their residence management that after the long weekend they will get evicted. This happens on top of being charged many ridiculous prices for services that a student residence is required to have like the issue of being charged huge amounts for each laundry usage, while the students are even struggling to fill up their stomachs," it added.

"Off-campus residences needs to change this mentality of thinking that they are operating in a vacuum where they are immune to the problems of the institution.

"When the off-campus residences accept the memorandum of incorporation with the institution to give services to the students they must as well accept all the disadvantages and hardships that they will face due to the inconsistencies with the system of the higher education sector, as they now form part and parcel of the higher education sector.

"Therefore, they must not act as aliens who are not operating within the system and are only there for the benefits. We call on the university to come to an agreement with these residences so that our students stop being threatened by these reactionary managers.

"We also call on these residences to stop treating us as blessers that must always pour money for services that are essential in students’ lives."

SASCO further said that the wealthy and those, who can pay for themselves, "cannot ride on the backs of the working class to advance their own class interests".

"Class boycotts and shutdowns are tactics of struggle, not ends in themselves, and not strategies or principles of mass mobilization. They should not be used to put student futures in jeopardy."