SA Higher Education Ministry Steps In To Resolve Varsity Protests

South Africa’s Higher Education Minster Blade Nzimande will convene a meeting with representatives of various universities in Cape Town on Tuesday to discuss the tuition fee increases. The minister has been briefing the media in Pretoria on Monday afternoon about protests at a number of institutions over the proposed fee increases.

Nzimande has appealed to the students to give efforts aimed at resolving their grievances a chance.

He has also condemned the latest escalation of protests at universities and called for dialogue.

Wits University council will meet to discuss the fee increase for next year after the 10, 5% increase, agreed on earlier in the year, was suspended.

Nzimande says government has allocated more money to the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NFSAS) to resolve students’ issues. He eloborates on what he said at the closing of the Higher Education Summit in Durban.

“In the summit, I was urging all the vice-chancellors and the councils to rally, engage about this issue of students, and also to be considerate. It does not mean we do not understand that our universities are facing financial difficulty and some of them are technically bankrupt, but nevertheless, we must not allow the burden of running higher education to increase on the shoulders of not just students, but we are more worried about poor students.”

Gauteng Education MEC Panyazi Lesufi has thrown his support behind students protesting against the proposed fees hikes in universities, but has condemned violent protests. He says universities like Wits must review their fee structures.

Wits University has decided to waive the deposit students are required to pay when enrolling at the institution

National student protests against proposed study fee increases have brought at least three universities to a standstill this week. Lesufi says he believes that the country can afford free tertiary education, especially for the poor.

“I’m on the side of students, without any hesitation. I really believe that students are right when they say the fees are abnormally expensive. I’m urging the council of Wits; they must respond positively to the demands of learners. I’m very passionate about student politics. I’m a product of that process and I don’t want other students to be denied the right to be better people in society because they are excluded because of fees. Fees at Wits must fall, and must fall now.”

Meanwhile, the executive council of Wits University has decided to waive the deposit students are required to pay when enrolling at the institution. It’s also committed to put in place austerity measures to ensure that all funds are properly utilised.

It issued an online statement a short while ago.

Student fee protests are also taking place at a number of other tertiary institutions including UCT and Rhodes. Rhodes students in Grahamstown have abandoned talks with Vice-chancellor Sizwe Mabizela after no agreement was reached on a decrease in the students’ Minimum Initial Payment, or MIP, of R40 000 before registration.

University management offered an initial minimum payment of 20% of full fees, and an extended payment deadline.

Students are, however, demanding a 10% MIP and the lowering of fees in general.  

Barricades have been set up at all entrances to Rhodes.