As 2018 draws to a close, we’ve taken a look back at some of the biggest stories and happenings in student news over the past year.
Victories for Fees Must Fall movement
Following two years of nation-wide #FeesMustFall protests, this year students were able to start enjoying some of the successes that emerged from the push for more affordable tertiary education.
The protest movement’s repercussions were felt as the Department of Higher Education and Training answered questions on the financial impact of the protests in August this year. Students activists had court cases postponed until 2019 or had charges dropped for their part in protests around the country.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) this year began converting loans to bursaries, effectively providing first-year applicants from families with an annual income of less than R350,000 with free tuition.
As Minister Naledi Pandor explained “The scheme will be phased in over a five-year period, starting in the 2018 academic year with first-time entry university students only. By the end of the five-year phase-in period, all undergraduate university students eligible (in line with the new threshold) in all years of study will be funded.”
NSFAS made student’s lives easier by allowing them to update details online but was hampered by backlogs and delays which led to protests and students getting stranded without funds. A major reshuffle of management and new systems saw the backlog cleared and a record 400 thousand applications coming in for 2019.
“By the end of the five-year phase-in period, all undergraduate university students eligible (in line with the new threshold) in all years of study will be funded.”
Spotlight on gender-based violence
While 2018 saw great advances on affordable tuition, the worrying issue of widespread gender-based violence on campuses across the country was brought to light, with several ugly incidents making headlines.
On August 1 women of all walks of life take to the streets as part of the #Totalshutdown movement. in protest of gender-based violence against women and the high rate at which women are being murdered. Within two days of the march, a Rhodes student hanged herself after battling depression as a result of allegedly being raped by her boyfriend in May. On the same Friday as Khensani’s death, a NMU student was allegedly raped by her boyfriend. She opened a case against him the next day, but withdrew the case a few hours later. On Friday, August 10, an incident occurred where a male student was filmed attacking his girlfriend during a fight. On Sunday, August 12, a student couple were attacked close to Fort Hare’s Alice campus. The male student was tied up before his girlfriend was raped.
TUT protests and shooting
SRC elections at Tshwane University of Technology’s (TUT’s) Soshanguve campuses turned fatal when a student was shot and killed by police in August. Allegations that the SRC elections were rigged led to violent clashes which led to the police entering the campus. A police constable and a captain were arrested for the death of Katlego Monareng. The campus was shut down amid safety concerns and students finally got to write exams in December
Charitable deeds and medical breakthroughs:
Inspired by Mandela Day, a group of volunteers from seven countries journeyed from Cape Town to Cairo to raise funds to build a free college. The team also stopped at various villages along the way to help out the communities. Such was their success that they have pledged to building 67 colleges across Africa by 2029.
University of Stellenbosch medical students also did their bit by going on an ambitious 902km cycle tour to raise funds to help fellow students to ensure that their basic needs are covered and they can continue studying.
A team from University of Cape Town’s Centre for Lung Infection and Immunity developed a test that can diagnose TB meningitis within 2 hours. With an estimated 80% of the population infected with the bacteria, TB is a leading cause of death in South Africa.
In rugby, Stellenbosch Maties won Varsity Cup 2018, beating North West University 40 -7.
Tuks won Varsity Hockey 2018, beating Maties 5 -0.
TUT won Varsity Football 2018, beating Wits 2 -1.
UP Tuks won the Varsity’s Rugby Sevens, beating UJ 19-14.