ANGRY college students in Nelson Mandela Bay yesterday disrupted campuses in protest against the short payment of bursary funds from the National Students Financial Aid Scheme. The disgruntled students claimed the approved bursary amount had been downsized due to an apparent shortage of funds, leaving many without transport or accommodation money.
Now thousands of Port Elizabeth College students are expected to down pens as students from all the campuses converge at the Russell Road campus this morning in a mass demonstration against the non-payment of transport funds.
Yesterday, scores of students practically closed down their campuses as they toyi-toyied, demanding that the money be paid out as many said they were unable to attend classes. Some said they had been kicked out of their accommodation for not having paid their rent.
At Uitenhage’s Midlands College, students also protested and they are planning to take to the streets again today.
About 200 students toyi-toyied outside the Russell Road campus yesterday, burning rubbish and attacking passing cars.
The rowdy crowd – carrying placards reading "no money, no school” – threatened to carry on their protest until money owed to them as per the bursary agreement was paid out in full.
Second year tourism student Kamogelo Lekoma said they were meant to get R1500 per term for transport, but they were yet to see a cent of that money.
"We rely on this bursary money to get to and from campus, but without it we are struggling,” she said. "We understand there were others before us who may have abused the system, but there are those of us who seriously cannot do without these funds.”
The students – who blocked off a section of Raleigh Street in front of the campus – attracted police attention after they started beating and throwing rubbish at passing cars. Singing senzeni na? (what have we done?) and carrying placards reading "we want our money”, students vowed not to back down until they had received the money.
A student from Addo said she had been threatened with eviction from a flat she rents in Central’s Havelock Street. "They want R750 for rent – money that I don’t have.”
Students also voiced their concern at being expected to attend 80% of classes and pass at least six of their seven subjects to retain their bursaries.
Financial management student Sonwabiso Plaatjie said he would often miss lectures because of not having bus fare to get to college.
"We are expected to pass well and have 80% attendance, but we have not received the money,” he said.
"Both my parents are unemployed, which is why I applied for the bursary, and I am now forced to borrow money to be able to attend classes.
"But there are times when there is just no money and I have no choice but to stay away.”
Yolisa Mentjies said she sometimes borrowed just enough money to at least get to college and "worry about return fare later”.
"My mom just encouraged me to at least try and get to school, with the hope that this problem will be fixed,” she said.
Attempts to get comment from the financial aid scheme yesterday were unsuccessful.
Today the college’s Dower, Iqhayiya, Algoa and all Richmond Hill campuses are planning to protest outside the Russell Road campus.