23/10/2015. President of SASCO Ntuthuko Mkhombothi addresses the media about the 0% increase that was announce by President Jacob Zuma and the clashes between the students and the police on the lawns of the Union Building Picture: Masi Losi

Pretoria - Student leaders who were locked in a meeting with President Jacob Zuma on Friday were unhappy with the resolution taken, and instead wanted government to provide free education at all tertiary institutions.

Zuma announced after the closed-door meeting with the university vice-chancellors, chairpersons of university councils and student leaders at the Union Building that there would be no tuition fees increment for 2016.

But the students organisations said they were not happy with the outcome of the meeting, saying the government failed to commit to help them in the long term.

Pan Africanist Student Movement of Azania president Ndiyakholwa Ngqulu said: “We thought that because he is from a poor background, he would understand where we were coming from with our proposal.”

He said the vice-chancellors didn't want to commit to whether the zero percent increment was going to apply to the 2016 only or the following years as well.

“If this is going to apply to 2016 only, I am afraid that come 2017, we might find ourselves in the same situation,” he said.

Ngqulu said one of the burning issues at the meeting was about the current funding model for tertiary education, which was problematic because it was not benefiting all students.

He said it was unfair that the former white institutions were also benefiting from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas).

As a way forward, the meeting proposed that an investigation needed to be carried out to look into the how the present funding model could be improved.

Zuma said the investigation would be led by the presidential task team established to look into the corrupt activities into Nsfas.

South African Students Congress president Makhombuti Ntuthuko said the autonomy of universities also came under the spotlight at the meeting.

He said the autonomous status of varsities made it difficult for government to regulate the way they decided on the fees.

He proposed that the government looked into regulating how fees were administered at varsities.

DA Student Organisation leader Yusuf Cassim said the organisation called for the introduction of a free education to redress the inequality.

“I appreciate the good gesture by vice-chancellors for saying upfront that there will be zero percent increment fees; it is something that we welcome,” he said.

However, he said he was disappointed with the outcome of the meeting because it deflected the blame from Zuma and the Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

He said the zero percent has not ended the struggle of the students as there was no commitment made by government to assist students in the long term.

Mpho Morolane, EFF Students Command presidents, expressed disappointment at the approach of government.

He suggested that the private sector be made to pay at least two percent tax towards the students funding.

Zuma said the students raised other concerns such as the transformation issues as well as matters relating to the living conditions of students at universities.

Zuma said: “Government understands the difficulty faced by students from poor households and urges all affected to allow the process to unfold to find long term solutions in order to ensure access to education by all our students.”

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