Thursday 27 May the Socialist Student Movement at the Westville campus of the newly "merged" University of KwaZulu-Natal organised a march against the exclusion from financial aid of hundreds of students.
On Westville campus, 484 students have been denied financial aid despite qualifying for it. Some weeks ago, the students were told the money was finished and they should go home. Some students have already interrupted their studies and returned to their rural homes, often encouraged by intimidated parents. 65 students staying in private accommodation have been evicted.
One of the demands of the march was for the university to provide cheques for their rent.
Approximately 150 students took part in the march, which must be seen as agood turn-out bearing in mind that this was the last week before the exam-period. After the march, two students came up to the SSM-activists and said it had made them change their minds; instead of leaving university as they were told by management they are now determined to come back nextsemester and fight for it if neccessary.
The SSM takes the very fact that the vice-chancellor Makgoba turned up to collect the petition as a victory.
Now the management knows that students have their eyes on them and are prepared to challenge their neo-liberal agenda. All over the country’s tertiary institutions, struggles are emerging on the issue of access to education.
Though Makgoba desperately tried to portray himself as a poor boy from the rural areas, who, "as an African", never would exclude any student, the experienced reality of students deny his statements.
Last Friday, for example, four students at the Edgewood campus were told to pack their bags and go home. The SSM sees the march as the beginning of a fight-back, and are preparing to organise the defence of all students’ access to the university next semester.