EFF threatens to shut Unisa down over limit of 20 000 first-time students
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Pretoria - Unisa students are ready to shut all campuses of the university down and render them ungovernable if the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, does not reverse Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology Blade Nzimande’s decision to limit first-time students by 20 000 this year.
President of the School Governing Body Wadzanai Mazhetese and chairperson of the EFF Student Command Thabo Maake vowed that Unisa will not proceed with the academic year if the judgment reserved by the court turns out to be unacceptable to them.
EFF students, adorned in their red gear last week, protested outside the high court in Madiba Street and marched along the street, bringing traffic to a standstill, under the watchful eye of a police nyala deployed to monitor the situation while the application was being heard.
Nzimande’s decision came as a measure to help deal with the amount of funding needed from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, but it was seen as anti-revolutionary by students.
Mazhetese said the students were united in their support of the application by EFF students to have Nzimande’s decision reversed and him given an order not to impose such a measure that could steal the future of many young people desperate for education.
He said: “There is just no way we are going to allow the minister and his department to create a culture of telling institutions of higher learning to limit students in a country where education can and has changed the lives of many people.”
Maake said: “Unisa is the last hope of many students, and many students come and apply to Unisa. So in a situation whereby the biggest university on the continent is chopping out 20 000 students, the question that arises is where must they go now? It is very much tougher at the other institutions.
“There is no logical reason behind Nzimande’s decision, but that for now will be determined by the court. However, one thing that is certain, and rest assured, if the command of the court does not reign supreme, all provinces and regions of Unisa will be rendered ungovernable.
“We do not rely on this court to take that decision to say 20 000 students must be excluded from education. Rest assured that if the court makes that judgment there is not going to be any academic activity at Unisa. We would rather all suffer than allow black students to suffer that indignity. The reality is that it is largely black students who are marginalised by this,” Maake said.
He said students were also upset that Nzimande also took a decision to defund some qualifications like education and nursing, which frustrates students because those students also need the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. He said other bursaries available for such students could not cope with the high number of students needing help.
“We are also fighting Unisa’s decision to usher in a super semester that requires students to register both semesters now and then pay a higher registration fee. This will have complications because students will need a lot of leave to write all exams at the end of both semesters, and it will just be too much and there will not be enough time to study.”
Unisa has, however, stated that a lot of modules will have more assignments and no need to write exams at the end of the academic calendar. Regarding the trimming of students, it said the decision was made by the minister and is now in the hands of the court.
Spokesperson for the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology Ishmael Mnisi said the department was defending its decision in court and would wait for the outcome of the court.