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Change the world

24/02/2023

On Monday, 20 February 2023, the University community was met with a blockade of the entrances to the North, South, and George campuses by students protesting, among other things, about a funding shortfall and unfunded accommodation needs.

At the time of the blockade, students had not formally raised any of the issues with the University as would be the norm. Student issues are normally raised with the University Management in regular, scheduled and targeted engagements with the Student Representative Council (SRC) and registered student societies. Then the issues raised are addressed to the extent possible, and within the institutional means.

We routinely and proactively assess student needs and respond to them as necessary. In this instance, the University has done so in two critical areas: establishing a mechanism to assist financially needy and academically deserving students to continue their studies through financial concessions; and constructing additional 2 000 bed-accommodation (1 800 in Gqeberha and 200 in George) to provide additional affordable student housing.

Even when student issues have not previously been raised, the University frequently responds proactively, and with necessary urgency by meeting with students in times of protest and talking through areas of concern, working to find solutions, and implementing agreements.

This is what happened on Monday, and by Tuesday, an agreement with students had been reached and was being implemented.

The march and continuation of the protest and blockade following Wednesday's student mass meeting were thus unexpected and contrary to the agreement reached and commitment made by student representatives and the University.

Also concerning is the turn the protests took. The mode of protest not only violated the rights of other students and of staff, but also halted the construction of critical infrastructure, including construction of new residences.

This behaviour is unacceptable at Nelson Mandela University. It causes unnecessary anxiety and stress among staff and students, disrupts services designed to address the very issues raised by students, and it interrupts the academic project whose integrity is for the benefit of students, and in which our University remains highly invested.

Moreover, attempts to engage the student leadership and protesting students on the continuing protests have proved fruitless. Simply put, we cannot even begin to engage with issues if these are not communicated in the appropriate manner.

We remain committed to engaging with students and addressing legitimate concerns. The University is however equally committed to ensuring the academic project proceeds as planned and will do everything possible to make this commitment a reality.

Learning and teaching will start on Monday 27 February as per the revised adjustments approved by the Executive Committee of Senate (ECS) on Wednesday 22 February 2023. Our University had already adopted a blended learning and teaching delivery mode. This is being further adapted to ensure that the academic programme resumes on Monday. Management, in consultation with Faculties, has been busy finalising the necessary steps to ensure that staff and students have access to data and devices to switch to online learning, if this becomes necessary. Further announcements in this regard will follow.

I thank all of you for your persistent hard work and commitment to the advancement of our purpose as Nelson Mandela University.

Kind regards

Sibongile Muthwa

Vice-Chancellor

24 February 2024

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777
Zandile.Mbabela@mandela.ac.za