By Sifiso Nhlabatsi | 2019-03-28
Fed-up University of Eswatini students boycotted classes and took to the streets yesterday in protest against lecturers who are sexually and physically abusing students.
As early as 8am, students stormed the offices of the lecturers alleged to have sexually abused students and held them hostage.
They proceeded to write messages on the doors to their offices, making it clear that they were tired of lecturers who abused students.
The class boycott comes after published claims of a lecturer at the university who beat up a pregnant student who he is alleged to be involved in a relationship with.
The lecturer, according to our sister paper the Sunday Observer, is alleged to have assaulted the student in full view of other students.
Meanwhile, it is also alleged that there was a lecturer who allegedly raped a 21-year-old student from the institution on Friday.
Addressing throngs of students during a meeting between students and UNESWA management, Student Representative Council President Sakhile Ndzimandze said as students they were very shocked by the events that unfolded at the university recently. He said students no longer feel safe at the university. Ndzimandze said the female students are going through tough times as they are facing abuse at home and now the same thing is happening at the university.
The president said there are two burning issues which are troubling students. He said they learnt that a student was assaulted by a UNESWA lecturer and another was raped by a lecturer. Ndzimandze said as students they no longer feel safe at the institution, which is a place where they are supposed to be protected. He said he himself had been a victim of abuse from the same institution as he was suspended on unclear grounds. Another issue that led to students protesting was that some students have still not received their allowances.
Ndzimandze said in solidarity with students who are suffering abuse in the institution, they have since decided to pay a visit to the offices of lecturers involved and lock them out. What irked the students even more was that the lecturer who was involved in the rape allegations was spotted by students at the institution’s premises on Tuesday morning. Students alleged that the lecturer even demanded assignments from them.
Ndzimandze said as students all they want is for the perpetrators to be suspended and chucked out of the institution while investigations continue.UNESWA Vice Chancellor Professor Justice Thwala, when addressing students, noted the seriousness of the issue which is why he came with the university management to address the students.
The vice chancellor said as a university they have taken measures in addressing the situation. Thwala said they have suspended both lecturers who are involved in the assault and rape allegations.
The vice chancellor commended the students for coming forward to report the matter. He said it is not an easy thing to report cases of this nature.
He further commended the students for the manner they handled the situation by staging a peaceful class boycott and not vandalising property. Thwala said as a university, they would use their statutes to deal with the matter. He said an enquiry has already been set up which would deal with the matter.
When asked about the time frame of these investigations, Thwala said he cannot give the exact time because there are external parties involved, which includes the police.
The vice chancellor apologised to the students for what happened, emphasising that as an institution they regret and condemn what transpired. He further apologised to the parents for the reported incidents.
Thwala assured students that an independent body has been set up to investigate the matter. Students were advised that student counselling is still done at the institution and they are free to go for counselling anytime.
During the meeting, it became clear that students were not happy with the dean of student affairs. This is because when the senior management of the university was being introduced when it was the DSA’s turn, students booed the DSA.
On the issue of allowances, the students were informed that the university was working around the clock to resolve that issue.
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