Tshwane – President Jacob Zuma believes his government has surpassed the directives of the Freedom Charter on the provision of higher education to millions of South African youth.
Addressing a biennial heads of mission conference in Pretoria on Tuesday, Zuma said there is no need for the ongoing violent protests which have shaken the higher education sector.
“The Freedom Charter states as follows: higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit. We have gone beyond the call of the Freedom Charter to support students on the basis of merit, as well as the need,” said Zuma.
“There is therefore no need for violence and the kind of protests we have seen, which give an impression that students think government is opposed to what they are asking for.
“We are not opposed to the call, we support it. It is a noble call. We also urge them to support the orderly processes of finding solutions to this important challenge.”
Zuma, however, said the protesting students should “not break doors that are already open”.
He cautioned that the police will continue to arrest people responsible for criminal acts during the protests for fee free higher education.
“It is however worrying that genuine concerns regarding high tertiary education fees are hijacked for wrong ends, and involve particularly violence, arson and various forms of destruction of property. We have to ensure that universities complete the 2016 academic programme, while we are still finding medium to long-term solutions,” said Zuma.
“The Minister in the Presidency Mr Jeff Radebe is leading efforts to support the minister of higher Education and universities to stabilise universities and support students who want to write exams and ensure that the academic year is not lost.
“The police will also continue to ensure that those who use genuine grievances to promote criminal acts are arrested and face the full might of the law.”
He told the diplomats that education remains a key priority for his government.
“We are making progress in promoting free education. For example, 80 percent of our schools are no-fee schools and the children of the poor and the working class do not pay fees,” said Zuma.
He urged the envoys to explore more partnerships and new areas of cooperation that can broaden educational opportunities for the South African youth.