Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Parliamentarians have called on Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor to address the rising debt owed by students to universities following fatal protests at institutions of higher learning.

Different bodies, including the South African Students Union, Universities SA and National Student Financial Aid Scheme, appeared in Parliament to brief the committee on higher education and training, and the situation at universities.

The committee heard that students owed about R9billion, consisting of debts that have accumulated over the years before fee-free higher education was introduced.

DA MP Belinda Bozzoli said: “Minister Pandor needs to make clear that she will provide universities and students with urgent assistance to deal with the debts they are carrying.

“The ANC’s fee-free higher education will not address the plight of senior students with sky-high debts and this matter therefore requires urgent attention from the minister. With almost 10 million unemployed South Africans, this crisis will no doubt add to this growing number.”

During the State of the Nation Address on Tuesday, Pandor called on institutions of higher learning to make every effort to find solutions to students’ ongoing concerns, and she would do everything to assist.

Parliament has called on the private sector to assist government to provide accommodation for students after widespread protests at universities across the country.

Committee chairperson Connie September said: “The committee believes that the private sector should complement what government is doing to provide funding, but condemns the destruction of property and violence on campuses”.

Political Bureau