On Wednesday 21 October, universities across the country initiated a national shut down. This was done in the hopes of combating the extreme increase of fees planned for 2016. Rhodes University began the #feesmustfall protest on Monday and have continued since. Megan Whittington reports on the day’s events.
This morning, protesters began gathering outside the Rhodes University Drama Department at 5am. As the hours passed, numbers grew in anticipation for the march which had been scheduled for 10am.
Many protesters came equipped with signs containing strong messages about the national protest.
Before long, numbers estimated to exceed 1000 were present at the scene. Academic staff arrived on the scene dressed in their robes to show solidarity and march along with students, University workers, alumni and local residents
The march was delayed due to separate protests occurring in Grahamstown. While awaiting approval, lecturers and white protesters were asked to move to the front of the crowd to act as a shield.
The march commenced and police officials drove ahead to ensure safety on the roads. The march went down New Street before heading up Milner Street, into Constitution Street and returning to campus via African Street. Many residents of Grahamstown came our of their places of work to watch marches pass and shout their solidarity for the cause.
Protest leaders met with management this evening to discuss the memorandum issued during the national shut down. Management commended students for today’s protest, labeling it as the only peaceful march to have occurred. Protesters; however, seemed unhappy with management’s response with regard to the issue of fees. Much emphasis was placed on the affect that the 6% hike will have on University budgets thus making.
This evening, students received a text message instructing them that academics will continue on campus tomorrow. Many protesting students are unhappy with this, especially given the violent forces that fellow protesters at other universities have endured today.
Many students have committed to continue the protest until a more definite solution is provided by both Rhodes management and government. Others have indicated their intention to return to classes tomorrow.
Follow Embizweni on Twitter for more information on today’s events and for more updates on the situation: @embizwenimakana