STUDENTS at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) in Bulawayo yesterday “shut down” the institution demanding an end to lecturers strike and commencement of lectures.
The students’ “university shutdown’ forced the Nust management and lecturers to resolve their differences, paving the way for the resumption of lectures today.
The students had spent almost a month without classes after lecturers embarked on an industrial action protesting alleged mismanagement at the institution of higher learning.
Yesterday, students barricaded all the university’s entry points demanding that management and lecturers resolve their impasse.
The students mobilised support for their shutdown through social media messages and by 7AM some of them had closed the university’s gates, denying people access to the campus.
The students also blocked the Bulawayo-Gwanda Highway forcing motorists to use other routes.
Chaos outside Nust attracted anti-riot police who used water cannons to disperse the students.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Precious Simango said the use of water cannons was a strategy to disperse crowds.
“I’m aware that there was a demonstration at Nust and police had to use water cannons to disperse the students. The use of water cannons is one of the strategies to handle a mob. I’m not aware that some students were arrested in the process,” she said.
Zimbabwe Congress of Students Union (Zicosu) president Mr Tafadzwa Gambiza said close to 50 students were arrested.
“What the police did was out of hand and we cannot condone such behaviour. We always support the Government but we cannot support such brutal acts by the police who probably got a directive to disperse the students from someone. Government should applaud these students for fighting for their birth right. They should deal with the root cause of such actions,” he said.
Nust Student Representative Council president Mr Pablo Chimusoro, who was among the arrested, earlier told The Chronicle that the university shutdown was a plea for action to Nust authorities.
“We are shutting down the university to call for the attention of stakeholders of the institution, be it the Government, administration or parents. We have been disadvantaged for four weeks. We tried communicating with the administration before but no clear action has been taken so we have come to a point of doing whatever that will call for their attention,” said Mr Chimusoro.
The students’ demonstration forced the university’s management and lecturers to seek common ground and lectures are expected to resume this morning.
Nust’s director of marketing and communication Mr Felix Moyo said the students’ demonstration was a result of their frustration after spending weeks without lectures.
“I think it demonstrates an enthusiasm on their part to learn. As far as they are concerned they know that they left their homes, they came to Nust to learn and they were feeling frustrated that they were not fulfilling their mission of coming to Nust. It was a strategy that they used so that they do not waste time,” said Mr Moyo.
He said the university would not victimise the students for expressing their disgruntlement.
“We have discussed the issue with Nusteda leaders and we’ve agreed that Nusteda will terminate their strike immediately. Classes will resume tomorrow morning at 8AM,” said Mr Moyo.
“On our part as management we are going to suspend the circular which was the bone of contention. The circular stated that lecturers should teach three courses but they want to teach two courses per semester. So we will suspend that circular and they will go back to class and teach two courses per semester.”
National University of Science and Technology Educators’ Association (Nusteda) secretary general Mr Blessing Jona confirmed that they had suspended their strike.
He said it was disheartening that students had to take drastic action for authorities to pay attention.
Mr Jona said lecturers were counting on the recent appointment of Professor Mqhele Dlodlo as the university’s Vice Chancellor to address issues bedevilling the university.
“Overcrowding in lecture rooms still exists, we still have a shortage of chemicals in lecture rooms. We are going back to the lecture rooms but our concerns are yet to be resolved. It’s sad that it had to take students to shut down the university for action to be taken. We don’t need a court to decide on the legality of the strike when our issues that are real still exist. A court can make a judgement but it cannot resolve real issues that are at Nust,” he said.