UFH ‘will listen to students over funds’

UFH VC Sakhela Buhlungu
UFH VC Sakhela Buhlungu
Image: Sisipho Zamxaka/File

The University of Fort Hare will implement any option students chose to get their NSFAS money.

This was said by vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu in an interview with the Daily Dispatch on Monday.

The VC’s comments were made in the midst of a week-long student protest at the university’s Alice campus.

Academic activities have been disrupted since Monday last week after students embarked on a protest demanding their NSFAS allowances be deposited into their bank accounts.

Buhlungu said: “We want students to know that we are on their side when it comes to these issues. Whether the money routed through NSFAS to their pockets or through the university, we will work with what the students choose.”

Buhlungu said the university became aware that the students were unhappy with the payment of NSFAS allowances two weeks ago.

The call by students came weeks after NSFAS announced they wanted the allowances paid into students’ bank accounts.

“Previously we used the IntelliCard system. This is something new by NSFAS that we must pay the money in cash to students. But it is not as simple as that. There are many students who do not have bank accounts, and the system itself had to be set up over time.”

Buhlungu said by the time they became aware of the demand of the students, the university had already engaged the services of IntelliMali to do the transfers into their accounts.

He said they also became aware of the two further demands for a zero percent fee increase and space must be found in courses for the enrolment of all postgraduate students.

“We sat with the student representatives and explained to them that no university can afford a zero percent increase for cost and tuition, it cannot be like that. We think we are on solid ground on that.”

In regard to the issue of postgraduate students, Buhlungu said in 2018 they exceeded their enrolment plan.

“This year we are trying to keep within targets that has been agreed upon by DHET. That means we cannot slot people in.”

Buhlungu denounced the violence which formed part of the protest.

“The staff centre was raided, vandalised and looted. That way we feel the students have crossed the line. You can do all you like – you can protest, it’s fine, but you cannot vandalise, you cannot block the main road in Alice or throw stones.

SRC president Xolani Jaji said they chose IntelliMali because of its credibility.

“We never experienced serious issues with IntelliMali that we couldn’t handle as the SRC,” he said.

He said they knew the consequences of choosing either NSFAS or IntelliMali.

“If we have a problem with IntelliMali, we are able to hold them accountable. NSFAS deals with 26 universities in the country. How are we going to hold them accountable? Even now we are still waiting for agreement forms. We cannot subject the students to the maladministration of NSFAS,” he said.

lTwelve students who were arrested for public violence on Friday, appeared before the Alice magistrate’s court on Monday.

They were all released on R500 bail each and the case was postponed to March 25.