Cape Town – Altercations broke out between students as tensions remained high at Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute in Stellenbosch on Wednesday.
A black student was involved in a fistfight with his white peer. And a student claimed that a lecturer slapped her.
The unease followed protests by Economic Freedom Fighters Students Command (EFFSC) members against the college’s language policy this week, even though an interdict was obtained against further protest action.
The students are protesting against what they call the racist language policy that allows lectures to be presented in Afrikaans.
As black EFFSC members sang Struggle songs while marching on campus, white students kept a close eye with some driving their cars through the group of protesters, forcing them to disperse.
Liphelo Mpumlwana, who alleged that a lecturer smacked her on Tuesday, said she had “dropped out” of college five years ago after she felt her rights were being violated at the college.
“I dropped out in 2010 because I felt I was discriminated against. However, I felt I had started with my degree and thus came back to finish, only to find the same still happening. We got frustrated because we are being taught in Afrikaans, which is why we decided to protest.”
She said it was difficult to find an internship and a part-time job because the internships from surrounding farms were advertised in Afrikaans making them difficult to understand.
First year student Thandeka Maseti said she struggled in lectures. “A lecturer would instruct us in English for the first 10 minutes, and then switch to Afrikaans.
“By the time they go back to English, you forgot what he said when he started.
“Lectures become very confusing and this semester I have more modules and I’m afraid I will fail.”
Leana van Eeeden, who walked out of a test, said the “singing might have made her fail the test”. “I couldn’t concentrate on the test because of the singing and the protesters were banging on the door.
“It’s unacceptable what they are doing and I don’t think they are going to get what they want. Instead, we are all falling behind in our studies.”
Elsenburg spokeswoman Petro van Rhyn confirmed that an urgent temporary interdict was secured from the Western Cape High Court.
“The purpose of the interdict is to prevent all students and non-students from participating in violent protest action and the disruption of college activities. We are duty bound to ensure a safe learning environment for all learners and staff.”