Cape Town -
Students will, within a week, forcibly “close” campuses around the province if the government does not intervene in the national funding crisis in higher education.
This was the ultimatum issued by SA Students’ Congress (Sasco), who led the students on a march on Parliament on Monday. Sasco maintains that funding shortfalls and mismanagement of available money from Treasury are denying poor students their constitutional right to education.
Sasco said thousands of students were turned away when they tried to register for the new academic year at their respective colleges and universities.
At UWC, more than half of the 21 000 had not been registered, Sasco’s provincial chairman, Luzuko Bashman, said.
Two weeks ago, the Cape Argus reported on chaos at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), where thousands of students were being turned away at registration because of funding shortfalls for government bursaries and outstanding debts. Police had to disperse a crowd of irate students, some of whom were denied registration, after they barricaded the entrance of Bellville’s CPUT campus. There have been similar protests at universities across the country.
Around 400 students marched from the College of Cape Town campus to Parliament on Monday.
One of them was 19-year-old Ncumisa Mahlombe, a second-year business management student. She was turned away at the College of Cape Town last week, and told she owed debt from last year and R2 600 in registration fees. This money, she said, was due to her via a government bursary for which she had qualified.
Bashman handed a memorandum of grievances to Nokuthula Nqaba, the parliamentary liaison officer for Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande. The grievances included:
* The refusal of some colleges to recognise Sasco and Student Representative Councils (SRCs) as legitimate representatives of students.
* The placement of students in residences that cost above the allocated money for accommodation for government, resulting in debts.
* The lack of transport allowance for some students due to funding shortfalls.
* A policy by some universities which refuse to register students who owe money.
Bashman said many universities mismanaged student debt and squandered the money made available to them through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. He called on Nzimande to do financial audits of suspect universities and to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate “the state of colleges”.
Last week, Nzimande announced a R1 billion injection into the aid scheme to assist with the bursary and funding shortfall. Sasco acknowledged and welcomed this, but added that the intervention had not filtered down to the students.