2016 was a year that will be remembered for its student protests across South African campuses. Here is a brief recap of the protests experienced on UP campuses in 2016.

Workers’ Protest On 11 January 2016, UP workers began a protest against the university’s outsourcing practices, and called for higher wages. Workers from companies such as Servest, Global One and Fidelity were dispersed by riot police on 12 January 2016 and the university remained closed during the following week. UP Summer School modules and special exams were disrupted and began again on 25 January 2016. UP’ s annual Welcoming Day, scheduled to take place on 16 January, was cancelled due to safety concerns. On 20 January 2016, after more than a week of protest action, a preliminary agreement was reached which included a staggered approach to wage increases and insourcing, as well as allowing UP workers and their dependents to study at UP for free. The first phase of insourcing began on 1 April 2016.

Accommodation On 3 February 2016, EFFSC occupied the Roosmaryn building overnight and disrupted classes the following day. This was due to many students not being allocated a place in residence and therefore lacking the funds and access to buy food from residences.

Language Policy On 1 February 2016, UP announced a task team to review the language policy at the university. This was a result of a memorandum that was handed over by UPrising and signed by UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof. Cheryl de la Rey on November 2015. On 18 February 2016, disruptions broke out across the Hatfield campus after an announcement that from 2017 English would be the only language of instruction in lectures at UP. The university was shut down on 19 February 2016 after scuffles broke out between opposing members of SASCO, EFFSC, the PYA and AfriForum. UP reopened on 22 February 2016, but was soon shut down again by protesting students wearing black as a sign of support for #UPBlackMonday and the UP students who were arrested following protests, known as the #Tuks24. There were also violent clashes between pro-Afrikaans protesters and protesters in support of the Language Policy change.

SRC On 20 September 2016, the scheduled SRC elections were disrupted by protests linked to Higher Education Minister , Dr Blade Nzimande’s announcement of fee increases for 2017. No further SRC elections took place in 2016 and an interim TSC was appointed.

Fees On 15 August 2016, the SRC held a mass meeting at the Piazza to address the issue of fees and receive a mandate from students about how to proceed.

On 19 September 2016, Higher Education Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, made an announcement about provisional fee adjustments for 2017. Households who earned more than R600 000 per annum would experience a fee increase of up to 8%, and there would be an increase in NSF AS funding. Protests broke out at UP following this announcement and some classes were disrupted. Classes continued to be disrupted throughout the week and eventually UP was shut down and set to reopen on 26 September, with all tests and lectures missed to be rescheduled during the October recess (scheduled to begin on 3 October). However, on Monday 26 September UP announced that recess would not be cancelled, but instead brought forward and extended to allow time for engagement with protesters and stakeholders. October recess began on 26 September and continued until 10 October 2016.

UP did not reopen on 10 October 2016 as planned, but announced it would reopen on 12 October after further engagement with protesters and stakeholders. The reopening of the university was under strict access control and most lectures and assessments took place online. Many semester tests and practical classes were cancelled.

On 20 October 2016, students marched to the Union Buildings demanding free, quality and decolonised education. UP exams took place under strict access control from 14 November until 3 December. No disruptions took place.

Photo: Kaylyn O’Brien

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