Students protest, venting their anger, in Durban streets during a Unisa strike. They say they have made numerous attempts to engage with the Department of Higher Education and Training in the light of difficulties. But Minister Blade Nzimande says public funds for the university system are constrained. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)
Students protest, venting their anger, in Durban streets during a Unisa strike. They say they have made numerous attempts to engage with the Department of Higher Education and Training in the light of difficulties. But Minister Blade Nzimande says public funds for the university system are constrained. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)

Students union calls for shutdown of higher education institutions

By Chulumanco Mahamba Time of article published Jan 28, 2020

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The academic year in higher education institutions is starting with protests as students announce a national shutdown.

Following pronouncements by South African Union of Students’ (Saus) call for a national shutdown of all universities, protests kicked off yesterday at the University of KwaZulu-

Natal (UKZN) and the University of South Africa (Unisa) Durban campus, the University of Fort Hare in East London and the Central University of Technology in the Free State.

Four people were arrested after violent clashes at UKZN’s Howard College campus. Students, police and university security were engaged in running battles for most of the day.

Saus called for a national shutdown of all universities over issues of access. The student organisation announced a national shutdown from yesterday until the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade

Nzimande, responds “positively” to 15

demands.

“The call for a national shutdown comes after numerous attempts at engaging and trying to bring sobriety to the Department of Higher Education and Training in light of the difficult and demoralising realities of students issues on the ground,” said Saus national spokesperson, Thabo Shingange.

The student organisation said they demanded that all students with historical debts be allowed to register in all universities and that the department should eradicate all historical debt.

Shingange said the organisation demanded postgraduate funding.

He said postgraduates should be allowed to register and that there should be free registration for

vulnerable, poor and missing-middle students.

They also demanded the reopening of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) for new students and walk-ins.

In response to the list of demands, Nzimande said in a letter that the department provided “significant” funding towards eradicating

historical debt for NSFAS-qualifying students.

The minister said NSFAS had so far processed about R450million of this historical debt and was engaging with institutions.

“Unfortunately, public funds for the university system are constrained and there is no possibility that debts of students who are not NSFAS qualifying can be eradicated by the government,” he said.

He said the department was working to develop a regulatory framework for university fees.

Students clashed with police and private security officers during a strike at Howard College at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Doctor Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)

Nzimande also said the department could not determine policies regarding postgraduate registration because each university managed their registration processes differently.

“This demand simply cannot be met at this time given the fiscal constraints that exist,” he said.

The minister said the NSFAS online system would not reopen as NSFAS had a process in place.

Shingange said students’ issues were met with “arrogance and complete disregard by the minister and his department”.

The EFF student command national spokesperson, Xola Mehlomakulu, urged students to reject Saus’s national shutdown and said the shutdown was disingenuous and called the student organisation a “toothless well-fed dog”.

“It is a stunt by non-progressive clowns sent by their handlers to

muzzle the anger brewing in students around the country,” he said.

@Chulu_M

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