News / South Africa

Alex Japho Matlala
2 minute read
7 Aug 2018
6:30 am

University of Venda at a standstill amid free education protests

Alex Japho Matlala

There has been no lectures at Univen for more than a week after students took to the streets under EFF student command's guidance.

University of Venda. Picture courtesy

The Economic Freedom Fighters have brought the University of Venda (Univen) in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, to a standstill in their fight for free education.

The university has had no lectures for more than a week after students took to the streets, fighting what they called “failure by the department to offer free education” at higher institutions.

Gcina Mhlabane, chair of the EFF student command at the university, said the students took to the streets after the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) failed to provide money to students who qualified.

According to Mhlabane, about 8 000 students have been affected.

As a result, students from off campus had to arrange their own transport to get to campus and to buy books.

“The majority of these students are from impoverished families. They have passed matric at no-fee schools because their parents had no money. That is why it is difficult for them to afford the exorbitant transport and textbooks,” said Mhlabane.

The students have pleaded with management to fast-track the process to provide money.

Mhlabane said students were prepared to stay away from lectures until their voices were heard. “We have written countless letters to the department and to the management of the university – all to no avail.

“But their delaying tactics will not deter us. We will continue to close all roads leading to the university in a push to get our pleas heard.”

Phuti Keetsi, national chairperson for the EFF student command, said earlier the EFF pleaded with government to walk the talk as far as free education was concerned.

“The department is failing to roll out the free education of former president Jacob Zuma. The only free education existing in SA now is by force,” said Keetsi.

Spokesperson for the department of higher education Lunga Ngqengelele said it was aware of the situation at Univen. He said the department has dispatched its big guns to the university to resolve the impasse.

Asked why the Nsfas was unable to aid the affected students, Ngqengelele said the department undertook to put funding applications on hold until all problems are resolved.

He said the department wanted to ensure students who applied for funding in the past two years received their money before new applications were processed.

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