Thu, 24 Oct 2019

About 200 tourism and hospitality students protested outside the Eastcape Midlands TVET College in Makhanda, while about 60 students protested outside the institution's Charles Goodyear campus in Uitenhage, on Wednesday.

The students in Uitenhage were protesting against an 80% attendance policy to qualify for National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) allowances, GroundUp reports.

Students who have fallen foul of the policy are demanding amnesty because they say they missed classes due to them receiving their NSFAS allowances late. They say they therefore could not afford bus fares to campus.

A student, who did not want to be named, said: "We burnt tyres yesterday... and when we arrived today the gates were locked... We were greeted by masked guards whose faces were covered with handkerchiefs, who barred us."

SRC secretary general Babalwa Blou said the 80% attendance policy applied to all eight campuses.

After a meeting with the college management, Blou said it was resolved that students affected by the 80% policy should write letters stating why they deserved amnesty. Students also protested in Makhanda. While the students here also expressed concern over the 80% attendance issue, the main focus of their protest was different.

SRC president Sabelo Madlala said students were concerned by the "continuous issue" of the college failing to facilitate practicals, which has been happening since 2017.

Sabelo said that, according to the National Certificate Vocational syllabus, students were supposed to do "theory and practicals", which was not happening.

Ashley Kasnel, a level four tourism student, said the protests were sparked when the college cancelled a practical trip to Cape Town.

He said that the class was due to travel to Cape Town on August 25, but the head of the campus had not signed off on the trip.

Questions sent to NSFAS have not been answered.

College spokesperson Kate Oladimeji said that the 80% class attendance policy was an instruction from the Department of Higher Education and Training, and that it had been communicated to the SRC.

On the issue of the practical in Cape Town, she said students were encouraged to attend practicals in the region, for example Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth and East London.

She said the college was complying with curriculum requirements.

Oladimeji said classes would resume on campus on Thursday.

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