Hungry students go on strike over grant

Thousands of Walter Sisulu University students embark on a protest over non-payment of NSFAS allowances on Thursday.
DISSATISFIED: Thousands of Walter Sisulu University students embark on a protest over non-payment of NSFAS allowances on Thursday.

“We are hungry.”

That was the message on a placard held by a Walter Sisulu University student in a protest demanding that NSFAS allowances be paid directly into students’ bank accounts, in East London on Thursday.

Third year policing student at the Buffalo City campus Sonwabiso Ndike, who carried the placard, was among thousands of students who protested over non-payment of allowances.

While students in East London protested, students in Mthatha on Thursday morning barricaded the main gate to the Nelson Mandela Drive campus with burning tyres, preventing staff from entering the premises of the university.

This was part of their boycott of classes which began last week on Thursday over the same issue.

“The non-payment of NSFAS allowances affects me directly, hence I joined the students to raise our voice on the matter. It is difficult to make ends meet.

“I go to school on an empty stomach and while at school I am unable to focus because I am hungry and think about what I am going to eat when I get to my residence,” Ndike said.

“We cannot carry on like this. This is selfish and unfair.”

Mechanical engineering student Siyabonga Mhlaba said he was surviving on the mercy of other students.

“The conditions are very tough.

“Imagine going to class without eating and not knowing what you will eat before you sleep,” he said.

SRC secretary Samkele Mnqai said thousands of students at the Buffalo City campus had not received their allowances.

“The SRC called a mass meeting on Thursday [last week] and students decided to embark on a go-slow.

“They [students] boycotted classes.

“That was our attempt to bring the seriousness of the matter to the attention of the management, but nothing happened,” he said.

He said their attempts to engage with the management were fruitless, “hence we could not stop students when they said they wanted to go on strike [protest],” he said.

SRC publicist at the Mthatha campus Asanda Mtshezi told the Dispatch that after management learnt about the class boycott they had promised that all students would get their allowances by Friday.

“But the process was disrupted as the campus rector told the staff to leave the premises after threats of violent protest”.

She said the majority of students wanted the staff to return to their posts and to carry on distributing the allowances.

“It is only a few groups of students who disrupted the process because our resolution was to stay away from class, not cause any disruption.”

WSU spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said the reason some students had not yet received their allowances was because of incorrect or invalid banking details that they had submitted.

“Two weeks ago the university made a plea for students to correct their banking details. Another payment run will be made tomorrow [Friday]. “However there are still students who up until now have not made the necessary submission, who unfortunately will still not receive their cash allowances tomorrow,” she said.