UWC students in court for violence in protest

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Fifteen UWC students were due to appear in court on Tuesday morning on charges of public violence after exits were blocked and tyres burnt on Monday.

Bricks were also hurled at students in lecture halls and some were pulled out of their classes.

Thousands of non-protesting students, academic and administrative staff were prevented from leaving the campus.

The police had to fire water cannons to disperse hundreds of rioting students.

The campus erupted on Monday afternoon after protesting students were told there was no funding from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) pay for academic tuition and food vouchers.

About 150 students did not receive funding and an investigation by the university showed that some of the students did not qualify for funding, some were on a waiting list and others had received some of their funding, UWC spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said on Tuesday morning.

NSFAS has distanced itself from the strife.

Spokesperson Bonny Feldman said on Tuesday that as far as the organisation was aware, it was an issue of UWC not paying out the vouchers.

The student aid scheme had transferred the money to UWC she said. Feldman said it was up to institutions to decide how to disperse the money. “Some universities give the cash and others give the vouchers,” she said.

Hundreds of students burnt tyres and blockaded the campus roads to prevent people from entering and leaving.

Students claimed that UWC had refused to explain why the NSFAS funding was cut. “They cannot expect us to wait for them to get their act together.

“Everything was fine until the start of the second semester in July when they told us there were problems with the funding. Ever since then we have been forced to live without the food vouchers and deal with tuition costs,” said student Amaan Phiri.

Last week protest action disrupted classes and forced some students to abandon tests.

“This has been going on for a while now. The university administration has seemingly forgotten that we need the funding from NSFAS to survive,” said another student Winston Erasmus.

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