Tshwane University of Technology's (TUT) Soshanguve North campus. File picture: Phill Magakoe

Pretoria - The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was out of order when it told poor students at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) there was no funding for fees, the SA Students Congress (Sasco) said on Thursday.

Students were protesting at the university for the third time this year, primarily over the NSFAS, Sasco said in a statement.

The NSFAS told students they should pay their fees as there was no funding available.

“We believe that this is out of order as many of the said students will be unable to pay their own fees due to their background,” Sasco said.

Sasco would meet the NSFAS to “force” it to deal with students' problems rather than ignore the matter thinking the problems would disappear.

The protests were happening against the background of the TUT apparently returning R90 million to the NSFAS, stating all poor and deserving students in the institution had been covered, Sasco said.

Meanwhile, a promise of R10m made by TUT vice-chancellor Professor Nthabiseng Ogude had failed to materialise.

TUT was not immediately available for comment.

Sasco said it would speed up its call for student funding at its free education march on September 25.

“We will ensure that we ask the ministry of higher education to answer the question of what happened to the R1 billion that was announced at the beginning of the year as these same challenges are still prevalent.”

On Wednesday, TUT management lifted the suspension of the institution's Student Representative Council.

Spokeswoman Willa de Ruyter said the decision to reverse the suspension of the student leaders from the Pretoria and Ga-Rankuwa campuses came after management received a letter from them in which they said they would call on students to suspend the strike.

“They further agreed on the importance of lectures resuming as soon as possible,” De Ruyter said in a statement.

The group was suspended at the weekend.

Management and the SRC held talks late on Wednesday. De Ruyter said both parties agreed to denounce violence and confirmed their commitment to ensure the academic programme continued as soon as possible.

“The negotiation process between the parties will commence tomorrow 1/8Thursday 3/8,” she said.

“The focus of the negotiations will be to reach long-term sustainable agreements that will prevent future repetitions of such violent protest action.”

Academic activities were disrupted at the institution's Ga-Rankuwa and Pretoria campuses last week.

Sasco said it would continue to support the legitimate rights of students to protest as a means of having their issues addressed.

“We will not endorse any acts of vandalism by students or security personnel, as this works against the very interests of our students,” Sasco said.

“We call on institutions and the police to exercise restraint and allow students to demonstrate freely.”

Sapa