Picture: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency(ANA)
Picture: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency(ANA)

National shutdown of universities to go ahead on Monday

By IOL Time of article published Mar 14, 2021

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The South African Union of Students (SAUS) and university student representative council leaders have agreed to a shutdown of all tertiary institutions on Monday over a disagreement with the Department of Higher Education over a demands to scrap historic debt and deliver on a promise of free tertiary education.

Universities are facing a funding shortfall of more than R6 billion while the estimated historic student debt bill is estimated to be R14 billion.

On Sunday, SAUS said it had taken the decision to shut down learning at public universities after a weekend of meetings with SRCs.

“The meeting resolved to call for a national shutdown of all the 26 universities from Monday the 15th of March 2021. All 26 University SRCs have supported this decision unanimously. The shutdown will continue until our demands are met,” SAUS said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.

During these meetings, the students agreed to reject “in the strongest terms the police brutality carried out by the South African Police Services”. This follows violent confrontations between police and students last week which claimed the life of a bystander outside the Wits campus in Johannesburg.

The student union said it rejected Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s decision - announced in his annual budget speech - to cut budgets and reduce university subsidies for higher education.

SAUS also rejected the response of the Ministry of Higher Education to its list of demands. “We see these responses as a ’check box’ exercise, unsatisfactory and with no tangible solutions to address the 15 demands submitted. This is also testament to the lack of urgency and commitment by the Ministry to amicably resolve these issues without exposing students to brutal protests,” SAUS said.

The union said it was dismayed that Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande had rejected calls to meet with them to discuss their demands.

It further called for an “end to the victimisation of students in institutions of higher learning. We call upon universities and the ministry of higher education to ensure that all arrested students and suspended students are exonerated.

"Private security utilizes extreme and unnecessary force against students. They also create a militarised and high tension environment that further contributes to the problem. We therefore call on USAF to issue a directive to universities to immediately remove private security from our campuses as they remain a space of critical inquiry and engagement,“ the union said.

It also demanded that “NSFAS take the issues of students seriously and with urgency. SAUS continues to push for the funding decisions of all students to be communicated; appeals to be addressed; and allowances to be distributed timelessly.”

SAUS says it wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to “ensure that defunding of universities and higher education budget cuts are reversed and free education is realised not in our lifetime".


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