By Filipp Stoliarov
Another turbulent and eventful year has resulted in the resurgence of the Fees Must Fall movement and with that, their calls for a shut-down at UCT and all national universities. This article will explore all possible methods and advice for students on all national campuses to ensure they can secure their academic and holistic well-being during these divisive and stressful times.
One of the major issues with campus protests is centred around the accessibility to and of university facilities. When faced with impromptu blockades and pickets, universities will often try to negotiate and re-open affected areas. However, as witnessed at the height of the 2015 and 2016 protests, the main course of action undertaken to reduce levels of violence and confrontation involves closing all campus activities during affected days.
While one may not be able to predict when and where campuses will be affected, it is vital to maintain informational awareness. Having a social media feed with links to campus newspapers or radios will be vital, as they are often the first to broadcast potential closures or developments. Furthermore, regularly checking the university website for updates is essential.
Here is a list of some key points to remember if and when protest action is underway:
1. If you find yourself on campus while a protest is occurring, your safety is the top priority. Make sure you have a cell phone on you at all times with emergency contact numbers on hand.
2. If you find yourself in a potentially dangerous scenario, make sure you are aware of exit points at all times and if exit routes are blocked, make sure to leave that area or call for assistance.
3. If you or any other students are threatened or endangered, do not hesitate to call the police (10111) or the relevant campus security services. Protests against tertiary education funding are complex issues; the use or threat of violence against any people is criminal intimidation. Your safety and well-being must be the main focus should you be on campus during a protest.
4. If or when strikes have commenced and campus has become inaccessible, that does not mean that all work and relevant responsibilities have stopped as well. Make sure you check Vula and/or get updates from course conveners regarding potential rescheduling of lectures, as well as information on upcoming submissions. Just because university is temporarily closed does not mean that all university activities come to a halt. It is advised that Whatsapp group chatrooms are established with one or more lecturers/course conveners on it to provide critical updates especially if campus and computers are inaccessible.
During these times, it is vital that each and every one of us uphold the constitutional right to education with as much determination and energy as we direct towards our right to protest.