The national shutdown student protest over fees and registrations ahead of the 2021 academic year has seemingly cooled off. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency (ANA)
The national shutdown student protest over fees and registrations ahead of the 2021 academic year has seemingly cooled off. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ African News Agency (ANA)

Shutdown protest over fees cools off

By Gift Tlou Time of article published Mar 24, 2021

Share this article:

Johannesburg - The national shutdown student protest over fees and registrations ahead of the 2021 academic year has seemingly cooled off.

A week ago, students across the country took to the streets to demonstrate their concerns with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), financial exclusion at universities and the clearing of historic debt.

Student Representative Council (SRC) leaders appeared to be on the forefront of the protests, which turned nasty in some parts of the country.

In Joburg, students were arrested, some were injured. More concerning was bystander Mthokozisi Ntumba losing his life in Braamfontein.

The protests did not disturb much of the 2021 academic plan, with the transition to online learning well under way at several institutions, while others are completing the 2020 academic year.

Although no protest took place on Tuesday, student bodies have maintained that national shutdown is still on course. Despite the students’ resilience, some universities made it clear the issue of student funding was a national crisis, while Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande stated that NSFAS was facing cash-flow challenges.

Wits University found itself in the centre of things, as the university SRC demanded the scrapping of historic debt and for the university to permit all qualifying first-year students to register.

The university’s SRC has since announced that it managed to raise R4 million for students who were unable to register.

SRC president Mpendulo Mfeka said their aim was to reach R21m but due to the demand for registration, they had decided to release the funds.

Meanwhile, Nzimande called for an end to the shutdown of universities by students, stating that the year had already been lost.

“We are quite anxious that the shutdown must be called off as soon as possible because we are worried that the academic year is already short, and let’s make use of all the opportunities on all sides.

“The sooner we start with the academic year, the better.”

Nzimande said the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic could cause more disruptions to the academic year.

The Star

Share this article: