Management has with sadness and frustration taken note of the way some of our Mahikeng Campus students conduct themselves, especially when there are calls for support and solidarity on matters at national level.
We have emphasised countless times that the North-West University (NWU), support and appreciate all initiatives aimed at ensuring students’ access and success in our country’s higher education sector. All our students at the three campuses and those on distance learning have a right to support the national calls for financial and other assistance for academically deserving students. Students are also free to raise issues with management through the university’s students’ structures and recognised channels.
There is a developing trend in which our Mahikeng Campus is constantly engulfed in violence, vandalism, and destruction of property as well as intimidation of stakeholders.
“There does not seem to be any appreciation of the resources that we have been working hard to build to ensure equity of resources and student experiences across the three campuses. This week, less than 100 students, including non-students with absolutely no interest in the success of the university nor the best interests of our students, caused damage to university property, and their actions led to the closure of the Mahikeng Campus. Staff could not gain access to the campus and could therefore not assist students with critical services, including financial clearances and registration. Our infrastructure development projects are also negatively affected since contractors cannot access the campus”, Prof Dan Kgwadi, Vice-Chancellor of the NWU said.
This year’s protest action is taking place in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic which continues to claim lives. We have spent millions to make our campuses Covid-19 regulations compliant, and to ensure that our students can return to campuses. We have done this because we value the health and safety of staff and students, and we want to create an environment that enables you to succeed. Whilst many of our staff and students have engaged in activities that positively reflect the solidarity of the NWU in fighting the pandemic, the current behaviour negates all our good intentions. These gatherings are super-spreader events as there is no adherence to the wearing of masks and social distancing. The university regrets the irresponsible actions currently displayed at our Mahikeng Campus.
We have spent a significant amount of funds to invest in security at the Mahikeng Campus to ensure the safety of our students. We are repeatedly compelled to use the already limited university funds to respond to the vandalism and destruction of university property during violent protests. We must appreciate that these are taxpayers’ funds which could be used for other services such as infrastructure development and funding for post-graduate students.
Ironically the same people who are destroying property are the ones who purport to be fighting for poor students. We need to make it abundantly clear that the continued vandalism and destruction of property will not solve our socio-economic problems. In fact, these actions will result in even more of our students unable to succeed academically.
Management is involved in discussions with the minister, USAF and NSFAS to consider sustainable solutions for this funding crisis. All of us must be involved in a constructive debate regarding long-term sustainable solutions for higher education funding in our country. This is critical for the development and growth of our beloved country. Short-termism will only deepen the funding crisis and derail future students’ access and success.