Acting Public Protector visits universities amid #FreeEducation protests
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The Office of the Public Protector has earmarked six universities that it will be visiting as part of its investigation on access to tertiary education.
Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka earlier today visited the University of Venda and will later make visits to the University of the Free State, University of Pretoria and the Tshwane University of Technology campus in Nelspruit.
The university visits will be soon followed by visits to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions.
At these visit Gcaleka will meet with the university's management, the Student Representative Council (SRC) and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) officials to discuss access to education.
The visits also come at a time where the issue of access to education, free access to education and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education has come to the fore once again.
On Monday, students from higher education institutions from across the country protested calling for free education and for universities to allows students with historical debt to register for the 2021 academic year.
According to the Office of the Public Protector, it received numerous complaints last year relating to failure by NSFAS to pay for tuition, inadequate allowances for study material and non-payment of living allowances.
Spokesperson for the public protector Oupa Segalwe said: “The public protector has decided to go out into the country to speak to a number of stakeholders in those institutions and to try and bring the parties together.”
At least two universities, the University of the Western Cape and the University of Cape Town have cleared students with debt to register for the academic year. Stellenbosch University, on the other hand, has started an initiative where it is calling on donors and corporates to help pay student debts.
Meanwhile, The National Union of Mineworkers Youth Structure (NUMYS) has called on the ANC government to provide free and decolonised education at tertiary institutions in South Africa and abolish all historic debts for students.
“We will be with them as mineworkers, construction, energy and metal workers. These students that are being denied quality education are children of the working class of this country. They earn low wages but expected to take their children through the same institutions where mining, construction, energy and metal industries bosses send their own children,” the union said.