Nineteen students from Citrusdal FET College appeared at Clanwilliam court today on public violence charges following violent protest on campus on Thursday.
The students are allegedly part of a group of over 100 students who emptied rubbish bins and set refuse alight outside the institution in protest over the administration of their National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) bursaries.
Rubber bullets and stun grenades were used by police to disperse them, said Provincial police spokesperson Captain Frederick Van Wyk.
Van Wyk said the nineteen students have been detained at Voorberg prison since Thursday after the Clanwilliam court on Friday postponed their bail application.
They were protesting in solidarity with hundreds of fellow students at sister FET institution West Coast College in Atlantis who were upset with the administration of their NSFAS bursaries.
Speaking yesterday West Coast College spokesperson Gert Witbooi said classes resumed yesterday after the college’s forced closure on Tuesday following the violent protests.
Witbooi said at West Coast College the students forced their entry into the campus building vandalising two doors and smashed a window of a stationery campus vehicle.
However the college would today support the bail application for the detained students so they can return to campus and start writing their year end exams, he said.
On their list of grievances submitted to the West Coast College, the students queried a R200 registration fee, which they paid when they first enrolled in 2011, saying they had discovered other FET colleges did not charge such a fee.
They also queried the practice of engineering students having to undergo drug tests, and the administration of NSFAS bursaries.
“They threaten students that if they don’t partake in the drug tests they will be expelled from the school,” said Vuyo Msidwana, deputy chairperson of the West Coast College Student Representative Council.
Msidwana said students also have a problem with letters from NSFAS stating that they owed the scheme money while they were on full bursary.
Witbooi said it was a standard practise for NSFAS to issue statements to students on bursary indicating how much they owed the scheme. It didn’t mean that they had to pay the funds owed.
“They just receive a standard statement while their bursary application is being processed,” said Witbooi.
Regarding the registration fee, he said it was an old issue as it was scraped after receiving new guidelines from NSFAS, as previously the scheme did not cover the registration fee under the bursary contribution.
He said the college had informed all students who had proof that they had paid the registration fee that they would get refunded.
Regarding the drug tests, he said it was a standard practise in the engineering sector that before students enter a workshop they must undergo a medical test to see if they were fit to operate machines.
Director of Communication at the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Kefilwe Mkhanya, said her department could not comment on the students grievances, as it was “a college level dispute”. – Peter Luhanga