University of Fort Hare (UFH) instructs students to leave campus

Image via Wikimedia Commons

UFH shuts its doors: Students told to vacate the premises and return home

The University of Fort Hare (UFH) has closed its doors on Thursday due to weeks of student protests and unrest.

University of Fort Hare (UFH) instructs students to leave campus

Image via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Fort Hare (UFH), in the Eastern Cape, has on Thursday 5 March, suspended its academic programme due to days of unrest on campus. 

Students have been told to leave the campus, vacate their rooms, gather up all their belongings and return home — they have until 18:00 on Thursday to do so. 

UFH vice-chancellor instructs students to leave campus 

UFH vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu released a statement on Thursday morning saying that the university has experienced ongoing intimidation of violence against staff, students and members of the public — as well as looting and damage to property. 

Despite a court interdict, teaching and registration have been impeded. Management has taken the “difficult decision” to suspend the teaching programme on all campuses until further notice. 

“All students are hereby instructed to leave campus and vacate their rooms in all university-owned and leased residences with all their belongings and return home,” said Buhlungu.

“We regret having to take this decision but we will not allow any deviations from this instruction,” he added. 

UFH institutional advancement director Tandi Mapukata claims that on Tuesday 25 February, the university’s management was forced to suspend academic activity and release staff at its Alice campus due to violent student protests which included chasing staff out of offices and thus leading to a complete disruption of campus operations.

Here’s why students have been protesting 

At the heart of the protest is a “Register One Register All” demand by students who have been financially excluded due to historical debt. 

According to Mapukata, management has implemented all of Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande’s recommendations regarding the handling of student debt.  

“Therefore, all students who qualify with the set criteria (including NSFAS funding)  have been allowed to register. Unfortunately, there remains a category of students who do not meet the criteria set out by DHET (and UFH),” said Mapukata. 

Management says they have continuously engaged with such students and a number of concessions in this regard have been made. 

Despite the university’s efforts to find amicable solutions, students blocked the university entrance, burnt tyres and blockaded the R63 in front of the University. There were running clashes with Public Order Police (POP). Even a truck delivering supplies to a local business was ambushed and looted.

In an effort to restore calm and stability, the registrar invoked an existing court interdict which was meant to prevent UFH students from disrupting campus operations. The Registrar gave the students advance warning that the court order would become effective and that by law, POPS have a duty to restore peace. Later 11 students were arrested.