Press Release Statement: Student Protests at MUT

20 February 2019        

For immediate release: Submitted by Hlophe@mut.ac.za

PRESS RELEASE STATEMENT: STUDENT PROTESTS AT MUT

The University has in the past three weeks gone all out to show it regards its partnership with students seriously. To this end, the University has made a number of concessions and indicated to the SRC that some of these are dependent on Council as they have budget implications and some of the requests are policy issues at national government level.

When the University pronounced that students should vacate the University, the decision was made in the interest of the safety of staff, students and property. Moreover, the University also has an obligation to protect the people of Umlazi Township. The student protests had also spilled outside campus.

So far, the university has done everything in its power to resolve the stalemate with students. It is unfortunate that the university had to resort to cancelling lectures and sending students home, in order to create an environment where negotiations can continue without putting students’ lives at risk. As far as the taking the University to court, in terms of the University Statute, the Vice-Chancellor has a right to close down the University after consultation with all the relevant parties to ensure the safety of staff, students and property. The students have a right to approach the court.

Please find demands by students and responses by the university below:

  1. Concessions

We agreed on fee concessions and have been implementing as per agreements with the SRC. However, in the meeting of the 18 of February, the SRC informed us that, because Friday was the last registration day, some students could not register on Friday. This meant that the University would have to extend its registration to accommodate those who had not registered. Annual students have expressed the desire to have their full learning materials allowances paid, which the University will do.

  1. Allowances

The Financial Aid Bureau (FAB) has confirmed that the payment process is ongoing. There are now 8500 MUT students who are NSFAS approved. A summary of the state of allowances is as follows:

  • We have paid allowances to 7022 students; •There were 44 students who had incorrect banking accounts by Thursday afternoon; •A batch of 330 students has been compiled for payment of students who submitted documents up to Thursday, 14 February 2019. This will be paid latest today, 19 February 2019, after validation.
  • Documents for 144 students were received on Friday, 15 February 2019, and we need to validate these documents for payment on Thursday, 21 February 2019.
  • Out of the 8500 NSFAS confirmed students, we are missing banking details for approximately 1058 students.

We are trying to get students with incorrect banking details to re-submit correct ones.

  1. Infrastructure demands by students
  • Library access for 24 hours per day every day of the week; •Access to clinic for 24 hours of the week; •Provision of adequate printing facilities to students Undertaking from executive management

3.1. Extended Library access:

Library hours can be extended immediately with two additional hours (from 9:00pm to 11:00pm daily).  This decision will have additional salary implications for the university (six staff members/ 2 hours per day overtime salary costs).

3.2. Further extension to 24 hours per day will require Council approval because of the huge financial and staff implications (e.g. staff numbers and salaries will have to be doubled). Council is meeting on 28 March 2019. Management can provide the SRC with Council’s decision at the end of March 2019. The additional hours will initially be provided during peak exam periods, in June and November exam periods. In the meantime, the use of the Library by students will be monitored to determine the hours and pattern of use to inform decision on the optimum operating hours for the Library.

3.3. Extended Clinic access:

Clinic hours will be extended from 08:00am in the morning to 8:00pm in the evening or from 07:00am to 7:00pm. This arrangement would have four additional staff and salary implications for the University.  A twenty-four-hour access is not possible immediately. The University has written to the MEC for Health in the KZN Province regarding additional nursing assistance to MUT. Even if that succeeds, the matter also needs to be taken to Council first for their approval. EMC will only be able to provide feedback to the SRC after the Council meeting on 28 March 2019.

3.4. Access to more printing facilities:

The University will ensure that the heavy use printer in the faculty of Natural Sciences is operational at all times; and will use benchmarked ratio of printers per student in the computer laboratories.

  1. Fee increment

The students have requested the fee increment to be reversed. The University will consult with Council as this has budget implications for the entire year.

5.The issue of accommodation was discussed last week but not raised at today’s meeting The SRC has rejected the residence fees deposit, which are approximately in the range of R4,600 to R8,000. They have advised that the residence fee should not exceed R6, 000 for external residences and have also rejected the residence fees for the Phase 1 Student Residence arguing that it is not as if the University has to pay rent on it. The reason why the campus Phase 1 New residence deposit is approximately R8000 is because standards are not the same as the residences built two decades ago. Students want this reduced. They do not want the new campus residences to cost the same as the ones in town. However, the University is servicing a loan of R105 million from ABSA for the new residences. The additional costs will allow us to pay-off the loan in twenty years. Students want these residences’ deposits to remain at R4, 000 on campus and R6, 000 respectively. We will be taking this matter to Council as well.

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