R800m hangover from Fees Must Fall protests at universities

Walter Sisulu University students during a Fees Must Fall protest
Walter Sisulu University students during a Fees Must Fall protest
Image: Mark Andrews

The damage caused by protesting students in the #FeesMustFall movement has cost universities more than R786-million‚ equivalent to the annual state subsidy provided to a small university‚ parliament has heard.

In a detailed written reply to questions posed by the Democratic Alliance‚ higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor spelt out the destruction wrought to universities over a three-year period‚ cataloguing how laboratories‚ libraries and buildings were set alight and vandalised on campuses across the country. Fees Must Fall was a student movement that began in 2015‚ and centred on a campaign for free higher education.

The direct damage reported by the universities stood at R492.4m in 2015/2016‚ R237.7m in 2016/2017 and R56.5m in 2017/2018.

The hardest-hit institutions were North West University‚ which sustained R198m in damage after its Mafikeng campus was set alight; the University of Johannesburg‚ which saw fire and vandalism cause damage worth R144m and the University of KwaZulu-Natal‚ which estimated the damage done to its torched law library and vandalised buildings at more than R100m.

Pandor’s spokesperson‚ Lunga Ngqengelele‚ said the minister was deeply concerned about the financial implications of the damage done to universities. "We need to find money that could have been used for something else. It is a huge setback to have to rebuild infrastructure that was already provided‚" the spokesperson said.

DA shadow minister of higher education and training Belinda Bozzoli said universities got on average a billion rand each per year from the state‚ and a smaller university would typically get a subsidy of about R800m. That figure would have built at least two new residences for students at a poorer university‚ or fund thousands of student’s expenses‚ she said.

See the full story in today's Business Day

 

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