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Protest action by students

Protest action by students

Statement by Alan Khan, Senior Director of Corporate Affairs at DUT…

Students at the Durban University of Technology have embarked on protest action over the past two days. Management has received a list of grievances from the Student Representative Council on Monday. After deliberation and consultation, Professor Ahmed Bawa, our Vice-Chancellor and Principal, handed a written response to the SRC earlier today.

Issues raised by the students include: book allowance, the security company contracted to the University, cleaning services, outstanding fees, internet zone, gender related challenges, financial aid for first years and financial aid for BTech students, cafeterias and the student petition for the dissolution of the SRC.

A mass meeting is scheduled for 10H00, Wednesday, 20 July at Fred Crookes Sports Centre. This follows a petition by students from the Midlands Campus calling for the dissolution of the SRC and the process follows the SRC Constitution. A decision will be taken by students at this meeting tomorrow regarding dissolving the SRC.

It is important to note that the University is officially open and that the academic programme has not been suspended. However, we have received reports of disruptions of some classes at the Durban campuses. We will keep students and parents updated via the media, the DUT website and student’s DUT email addresses.

The Vice-Chancellor’s response to the SRC follows.

To: SRC President
From: Professor Bawa
Date: 18 July 2011

Re: Alarming Issues and Dissolution of the SRC

Thank for your memoranda dated the 13th and 15th of July 2011. They have been carefully considered.

Book Allowance
In terms of University practice, the majority of students who qualify for book allowance have received such allowances. There may be cases were some students may not have received it as a result of incorrect banking details. Please refer these students to Financial Aid for assistance.

We wish to point out that proper procedures were followed in the appointment of the company Security International. We note the complaints you have lodged against Security International and must advise that Management has met with the Directors of Security International on several occasions to set out standards expected of them for the duration of their contract. While the incidents quoted in your memorandum date back many years we assure you that going forward any deviations from the agreed upon standards will be appropriately dealt with by Management.

Cleaning Services
The lack of proper material for cleaning has been noted and will be addressed.

Outstanding Fees
The understanding reached at the beginning of the year regarding outstanding amounts for ‘casual stay’ was that the University would unblock those accounts in order to allow students to register. The University cannot allow students to live in the residences without paying. The University policy regarding casual stay for supplementary examinations is ‘one day’ prior to examinations and the date of the examinations is allowed free.

Internet Zone
Two donations have been secured to make the Steve Biko Campus a wireless zone. As was mentioned to you earlier in the year it is hoped that this technology leap will be done by the end of September 2011. The rest of the University will also be made into a wireless zone by March 2012.

Gender Related Challenges
Please note that the recent HEAIDS study of HIV prevalence amongst students sets the level of infection at approximately 9% – and not the majority of students of DUT as you have mentioned.

The University complies with the Government strategy on reducing HIV/Aids. In line with this government-issued condoms are provided free of charge to students. Providing branded condoms and sanitary towels to each student room is costly and unsustainable, therefore the request cannot be acceded to by the University.

I have spoken to the KZN MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo who is prepared to come to DUT to talk to the students about HIV/Aids prevention and in particular about the process and impact of male circumcision. As soon as we settle back into an academic programme I will contact to Dr Dhlomo for him to visit DUT. In the mean time I will ask the Department of Corporate Affairs to make available to students via email information about HIV/Aids prevention and treatment.

Financial Aid
After much campaigning, the University was fortunate in being awarded a further R16.5 million by NSFAS on the 15 July of this year. This money is allocated by NSFAS to assist those first year students who had indicated their need for financial assistance but who could not be helped at the beginning of the year. It is expected that approximately 400 students will benefit from this allocation.

Financial Aid for Bachelor of Technology Students
Our earlier communication to all students regarding B. Tech financial aid remains unchanged. We reiterate that the government does not provide funding for B.Tech studies except in the cases of Education and Nursing. However, the University continues to engage the Department of Higher Education and Training and NSFAS on this matter.

We have noted two complaints in respect of catering:
1. In the case of complaints against Fedics, this will be investigated further.
2. In the case of the small stalls on Steve Biko campus who have two streams of pricing, they will be engaged with by Management as early as this week.

Dissolution of the SRC
While Management notes the concern of the SRC in respect to Management’s handling of the matter, it must be pointed out that the SRC constitution does not allow for discretion by Management. Section 14 of the SRC constitution is very prescriptive on the procedure to be followed after a petition is lodged calling for the dissolution of a SRC.

Yours sincerely,

Ahmed C Bawa (Professor)
Vice-Chancellor and Principal

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