Queenstown Ikhala TVET College classes have been suspended for 12 days because of protest action by students demanding that the institution management pay their NSFAS allowance, which they have not received since January.
Although management had explained at a number of meetings with the SRC that NSFAS had only paid an amount to cover tuition fees, the students did not believe that was true. They said they suspected corruption and that their money had been mishandled by the management.
The students had, in fact, begun their protest three weeks ago, but The Rep could not gain access as two reporters were turned away and threatened with stoning on two separate occasions.
Students said not receiving the allowance was placing a strain on their education as they were not able to pay for accommodation and transport, resulting in their missing classes and having to squat at friends’ accommodation.
Last Thursday the students set tyres alight, blocking the road at either end of the college, and another was placed at the college entrance. A skip with refuse and tyres inside the college premises was also burning. Police arrived at the scene and forced students to put out the fires and to vacate the area, threatening to start shooting if they did not stay 500m away from the campus.
The students also demanded that the management team request an NSFAS representative to clarify the situation about funding with immediate effect.
Ikhaya manager Muller du Preez said: “We had meetings with the SRC but its seems there are different stories in terms of what has been paid. We have proof of what the college has received. I believe the issue is with the amount NSFAS has given that is currently upsetting the students.”
Du Preez said they did not deny that NSFAS had paid some money and they would soon pay out the students’ allowances of R870 each. “The students have a contract with NSFAS and we are just an agent to distribute the funds.”
Queenstown Campus SRC chair Marcia Siswanasaid other TVET college students had received their money soon after colleges opened.
“We were told by management our money had been deposited in the college account and we would receive it on Wednesday two weeks ago, which did not happen.
“When we inquired why we were told the money was controlled by NSFAS and not Ikhala. We then requested management organise a delegate from NSFAS to clear the confusion andgive confirmation on if they were telling the truth,” Siswana said.
Student Lusanda Takata said they finally received their R870 allowance and others R3,000 from the college this week. “We do not understand. Last year all students received R1,950 upfront payment and R2,675 monthly.”
Du Preez said classes would resume on Monday. At the time of going to print the NSFAS media team had not responded.