Zim students in SA speak on #FeesMustFall

Source: Zim students in SA speak on #FeesMustFall | The Herald  October 5, 2016

Leeroy Dzenga Features Writer

Zimbabwean students in South African universities, while safe from the #FeesMustFall campaign rocking the neighbouring country’s tertiary educational institutions, are concerned with the psychological factors associated with the turmoil. The Herald Review interviewed Zimbabwean students at various  universities across South Africa in attempts to ascertain how they are faring in the wake of tense protests.

The students, however, feel they have been neglected as no one has spared a moment for the foreign-based students. Accounting Science second-year student at the University of Pretoria, Richard Bwanya, says in the interim international students are safe. He said there was, however, no guarantee of their continued safety.

“We are as safe as one can be in such a volatile situation but no one can really be entirely safe since it depends on where you are. In the thick of action anything can happen,” Bwanya said.

He said although they were not stranded, their proximity to hostile confrontations between law enforcement agents and protesters was cause for concern.“No protests have reached the residences at the University of Pretoria.

“My concern, however, is on the psychological well-being of all foreign students domiciled in the residences during these violent protests,” he said.Some students were told to vacate the college residencies in efforts to maintain peace and calm were intensified.

“At the University of Pretoria students have been told to vacate residencies as a safety measure. Those with valid reasons on why they cannot leave the hostels were given forms to fill in justifying why they should continue staying in the residences,” he said.

A majority of Zimbabwean students at the university filled in the forms and were granted permission to stay on campus during the semester break that ends on October 10.

Bwanya said it was not easy being near the protests.“Hearing gunshots and seeing smoke nearby is not enjoyable even when one is clearly out of harm’s way,” he said.

The general feeling among foreign students, Bwanya said, was that they had been forgotten in the midst of the chaos.“Right now international students are the last thing on anyone`s mind.

“The university administration has been too busy trying to figure out how to handle the situation.“International students don’t even cross their minds,” he added.Student leaders orchestrating the movement are also accused of turning a blind eye on foreign students.

The international students division at the university is said to have also been quiet, with no communication in relation to the current occurrences.

“It is like we do not exist. I feel like as far as everyone is concerned, we do not have much to add to the discussion. The impact these things have on students is often overlooked,” Bwanya said.

Another Zimbabwean, Thuthukani Ndlovu, a third-year marketing student at the University of Free State confirmed they were relatively safe.He dismissed fears that the students unrest could turn into xenophobic attacks which are part of the country`s stained memory.

“I do not think this situation has a direct danger toward international students. However, the protests indirectly affect international students with regards to the outcomes and academic programmes being put on hold.”

Foreign students’ safety is usually handled by the international student office at each institution.“The office advises students in its database about what is currently happening and if anyone is harmed they handle it accordingly,” Ndlovu said.

Lectures at the University of Free State are scheduled to resume next week after students went on a protest-induced break.

The lack of consensus within the protesters is making it difficult to ascertain whether the lectures will be commencing effectively. Some are pushing a time bound plan from the government with the aim of attaining free tertiary education.

“There are clashes between students who want a zero percent increment in fees for all and their colleagues who are under the National Students Financial Aid Scheme.“The latter are satisfied with zero percent increment for them only, which they claim is sustainable,” he said.

The most aggrieved are those who cannot afford fees at all but considered to be unsuitable for financial aid given to students.The discord among protesters has made it difficult for South African universities and authorities to respond aptly.

South African Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has made a statement to that effect.South Africa universities are in turmoil after students went on a rampage demanding that government subsidise their studies. They are also demanding that government shield them from fees increases from their tertiary institutions.

The calls are riding on an unsolved division created by apartheid where citizens stay on opposite ends of the welfare line.An agreement seems to be a distant prospect after a recent imbizo called to put the issue under scrutiny ended with no tangible solution.

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