DURBAN – Amid the ongoing staff protests that have now lasted over a month at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), The Open Journal gains a rare insight that some students who come from impoverished families are now starving and wandering in the streets without shelter.
“On this day, I have no money, no shelter or food to feed my stomach, all because of the delays caused by the strike,” says Thando Ncanana, a potential Marketing graduate from DUT.
Ncanana left for DUT’s ML Sultan campus early this month from his Eshowe home, which is about 146KM away, with only R400 while his status hadn’t been released by the University’s system.
Ncanana is one of the many optimistic students at DUT who are currently running on an empty stomach, hoping for the university management to speed up the wage negotiations.
Because of the strike, Ncanana cannot either enrol for his BTech Studies or “obtain my letter of completion from the University,” he says. “[This means] I cannot even get a job.”
The University claims to have registered about 21 000 students so far through walk-ins and online registration process. However, there is still a considerable number of students who have not yet registered.
For returning students who are relying on NSFAS for funding, the outcome is dire since they cannot be coded and officially verified as rightful recipients.
Yet for first-year NSFAS funded students, an amount of R2 260 is required by the University before they can secure a space. There is no exception from this procedure, compelling them to be otherwise creative or risk not being able to secure an admission space.
A parent of a NSFAS funded student, who is a tuck shop owner in a small township called Waterloo in Verulam, tells The Open Journal she had to borrow the registration fee in order to secure a space for her daughter to follow her dream of studying Information Technology (IT).
“I have been here for five days trying to register my daughter and there hasn’t been any progress. Every day, I have to shut down my shop just to come here (at the University). I don’t know how I will be able to repay the money I borrowed for [my daughter’s] registration,” says the concerned parent.
Last week Tuesday, the DUT South African Students Congress (DUT SASCO) released a communique requesting students to partake in a protest aimed at addressing an array of issues directly affecting the students.
“We cannot ignore the issues that are facing us simply because the workers are striking. We have issues of our own. It is very important that our mothers and fathers (the workers) be sensitive to us, we cannot afford to lose classes,” says Zizwe Khathi, Chairperson of the Student Representative Council at DUT.
On Wednesday, a memorandum detailing students’ grievances was delivered at the registrar’s office. The University’s registrar Prof. Thenjiwe Meyiwa, after vowing to look into the issues with utmost prudence, said they are cognisant of students’ hardships and are trying to find an amicable solution.
Langelihle Kunene, a second-year Hospitality Management student who is set to go on an internship this year June, echoes the fear that she shares with many others of not being able to complete the set of tests and Work Integrated Learning (WIL), a compulsory requirement for students to pass.
The University announced yet another indefinite suspension of lectures dated 16th February due to the ongoing strike, but the institution remains open for registration and the already planned academic calendar will be revised. For now, no one knows how the revised academic calendar will affect students.