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A Study on triggers that lead to student protests and violent behaviours at the University of Kwazulu-Natal.

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Violent protest, results in the economy losing billions. The loss takes the form of anxiety, physical destruction and injury to persons disturbed by discontent. University student protest is a global phenomenon. South African universities are no exception and have had to temporarily close at times due to unrest. The Higher Education Sector of South African society is a key contributor to this annual loss in the economy. The University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) has been plagued by unrest resulting in a shutdown of the academic programme. The furtive factors that influence the eruption of violent protests, and the resultant implications thereof continue to mystify researchers. As a result, the study has chosen to focus on the initiates that lead to violent student protests at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Despite South Africa’s progressive constitutions, challenges with how protests are handled remains a concern. Although students are the centre of higher education institutions, researchers have failed to capitalise on student perspectives of academic and social development troubles. The aim of this study was to explore student experiences at a public university and to understand why violent behaviour occurs during student protests. A mixed methods approach was used. Qualitative methods were utilised for the interview process, in addition to a quantitative approach in order to understand key factors leading to violent protests. The dissatisfaction among university students was understood via the combination of both qualitative and quantitative methods. Data was gathered from 72 respondents. 108 questionnaires were distributed. A total of 92% of students and 8% of staff participated in the research. A key trigger in the decision by university students to engage in violent disruptive behaviour, is to have their needs met. Cognisance of early warnings and addressing grievances timeously could minimize violent behaviour in protest. These triggers could act as a dashboard to predict behaviours for responses to mitigate the risk of violent protest.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.