Johannesburg - The Witwatersrand University (Wits) on Friday urged President Jacob Zuma to urgently address the crisis in higher education that has seen thousands of students abandon classes calling for free education in the past six weeks.
The council said although Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande was trying to address the crisis, there was “no sufficient appreciation of the fact that this is a national crisis of significant proportion” and that it therefore requires Zuma and his office to “lead the thinking” on resolutions.
“The Council of the University of the Witwatersrand therefor calls on President JG Zuma to urgently establish a multi-disciplinary deliberative gathering that will explore sustainable funding options for higher education, which must ensure that no student who qualifies academically is excluded for financial reasons,” the institution said.
“Ensure that the gathering ultimately establishes clear time frames and milestones and commit the necessary resources and capacity from government to ensure that the necessary work is undertaken expeditiously.”
For the past six weeks, thousands of students have abandoned classes — with end of year exams looming — and have instead held protests to demand free higher education at the country’s public universities.
The #FeesMustFall campaign has been marred by violence, death, injuries and destruction of property as running battles between the protesting students and police raged on.
Zuma had indicated that the commission of inquiry into higher education fees which he established to make recommendations on the feasibility of free education should be allowed to complete its work and make submissions. He urged students to be patient.
A ministerial task team was also established, in which Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was later included in the team consisting of Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe as convenor, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Advocate Michael Masutha, Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba.
The task team’s mandate was to help Nzimande to normalise the situation at the country’s university campuses
However, the Wits council said Zuma should be at the forefront of resolving the ongoing problem of funding.
“The inclusion of the National Treasury in the Ministerial Task Team is an important step in the right direction, but we believe that the President should be at the forefront of exploring options for the sustainable funding of higher education.”
African News Agency