RHODES University today, (Monday) warned its students that continued instability on campus because of the #FeesMustFall protests may result in the closure of the institution for the rest of the year.
“Rhodes University supports the call for free high quality education for the poor. Rhodes University is working tirelessly together with other universities to lobby government for exactly this but continued instability will destroy our higher education system,says a letter issued to students by the office of the vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela, which also pleaded with students to “think hard” about their actions.
The letter says if the activities do not normalise by next week, the University “will be left with no option but to close and send all students home.”
This is after the university welcomed an announcement by Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, made last week, recommending that tertiary institutions should individually determine fee increases for 2017, but to cap it at eight percent for students who could afford to pay.
Under the new fee structure students whose family income is R600 000 or less would not have their fees increased next year with the state would cover the increase.
Rhodes University said should the public higher education collapse, it would be the poor and the working class families who bore the brunt of a dysfunctional higher education of dubious quality, while the rich would send their children to private or overseas universities.
But since the announcement that universities should determine their fees for 2017, students across the country have gone on the rampage, burning buildings and torching cars in their bid to demand completely free higher education.
This has brought the whole tertiary education system to a complete halt throughout the country as protests have made teaching and learning untenable, resulting in postponements and suspensions of academic activities.
“The closure of the University will have dire consequences for the town, for all University staff, and for students themselves who will not be able to complete the academic year.”
There are thousands of Zimbabwean students studying at the University, after having run away from Zimbabwe’s own crumbling tertiary education system.
The university said the primary cause of the crisis faced by the higher education system was its chronic under funding over a long period of time. – ANA additional reporting by Patience Rusere