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Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande announced that universities may determine their own fee increases with a cap of 8% on 19 September, after which protests began at universities across the country with students calling for free quality decolonised education. Perdeby asked lecturers, final year, and postgraduate students at UP whether or not the protests have influenced them and if so, how.
Dr Natalie Haussmann from the Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and Meteorology said that most of the final-year students in her class are dedicated to completing their degrees this year: “They’re just not always sure how to do this”, she says. According to Dr Haussmann, the university is working on putting back-up plans in place, such as online assistance and reworking the study material so that it is more accessible from home or the local internet café. The university has also negotiated free access to their web services from over 780 Wi-Fi hotspots in and around Pretoria. Dr Haussman said that students would be willing to follow reasonable back-up plans, should the disruptions continue. She also said she’s confident that despite the disruptions, this year’s graduates would be on the same level as graduates from previous years and that they will be competent to be taken into the work force next year.
Most of the final-year students who were interviewed said that they are trying to keep up to date with their work even though classes had been suspended. Final-year student, Mahlatse Sekatane, said that he is not sure if he’ll be able to complete his studies this year and that he is uncertain as to how it would affect his plans for the festive season and for next year. He wasn’t planning on staying in Pretoria, but if he cannot finish his degree this year he will be forced to do so. Sibongile Tshabalala, a final-year Geology student, said that she tends to become lazy when there is no class, because it feels like there is a lot of time to finish the work, when in reality there is actually no time. She feels that if consensus isn’t reached soon this semester will “go to the dogs”.
An anonymous postgraduate student completing his Computer Science honours degree part time while working full time said, “When working and studying at the same time it takes a lot of careful planning. My planning has been thrown out by the protests and neither my work nor the University will compensate for lost time”. Wihann Leipoldt, a master’s student at UP, said that the protests won’t affect the outcome of his studies. “It only influences me in that I am constantly on Twitter to see if anything new is happening on campus.”
According to Benjamin Ho, SRC member for postgraduate and international students, students can contact their deans for assistance where necessary or alternatively, students could contact him for any issues they may face.