Student protests not a national crisis - Nzimande

2015-10-19 17:45
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PICS: Universities shut down after nationwide fee protests

Ongoing fee increase protests have caused both Rhodes University and UCT to suspended all classes, while students block the entrances to the universities' various campuses.

Pretoria - The current student protests are not a national crisis and can be resolved, said Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande on Monday. The situation had not reached a point of total collapse between the different stakeholders, he added.

"A crisis implies that the situation is so bad that there are no mechanisms to deal with it. There are mechanisms in place. I have been assured by all vice-chancellors that they are willing to engage students on the matter."

Students from various universities have expressed dissatisfaction over fee hikes and registration fees, with many taking to the streets to voice their anger.

Protests started at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) when management announced a fee increment of 10.5%. The announcement saw students blocking entrances to the institution, resulting in academic activities halted.

The Wits protest was followed by students at the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University taking to the streets to protest the fee increases. Students at the University of Pretoria and at Stellenbosch University have also signalled their intention to protest the proposed fee increments for 2016.

Nzimande admitted that the current situation was not ideal but reiterated that it could not be classified as a crisis. He, however, admitted that higher education fees in South Africa were exorbitant.

"It is a challenge, but I wouldn't call it a crisis. I am very sympathetic to what the students are saying. We are aware that university education is expensive and that something needs to be done," he said.

Nzimande also called on universities to consider cost-containing measures to stop the inefficiencies and contain the inflation within the higher education system.

Students however differ with Nzimande’s stance on the issue. Tumelo Rasebopye from @TuksUprising said the student protests were a sign of the inequalities that exist within the higher education and training system.

"It's a national crisis that goes beyond people not having access to higher education. It paralyses the needs and desires of people wanting to further their education," he said.

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