Zuma announces task team to tackle problems at universities

2015-10-06 19:00
Jacob Zuma (GCIS)

Jacob Zuma (GCIS)

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Pretoria - A task team has been set up to tackle problems currently experienced within higher learning institutions, President Jacob Zuma announced on Tuesday.

They will look for solutions to deal with funding problems, which have caused violent protests at the respective universities.

Zuma made the announcement following a meeting, between him and the vice-chancellors of higher education institutions across the country at the Union Buildings, to discuss the tense situation at several campuses.

The University Council Chairpersons Forum South Africa and the Universities South Africa (USA) had requested a meeting with the president to discuss the issue.

"We agreed to establish a task team made up of officials from the department of higher education and training, the presidency, NSFAS, two Vice-Chancellors representing the leadership of universities, two student representatives, as well as other higher education stakeholders to explore solutions to short-term student funding challenges," said Zuma.

The task team would make recommendations by the end of November.

The issue of funding has been a thorn in the side of universities for many years. In January 2015, the University of the Witwatersrand was hit by protests over funding and registration.

The Tshwane University of Technology went through a period of protests in February, with students expressing dissatisfaction over lack of funding from NSFAS. Learning was disrupted until the government intervened.

In May, students protested at the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) College in Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal, demanding financial assistance. During the protests, students damaged university property.

In recent weeks, tensions also flared up at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Zuma condemned the destructions that accompanied student protests.

"While the processes are underway, students need to brought on board for frank and honest discussions to ensure they don't resort to violence and destruction of property, which can only lead to their further suffering and deprivation.

"We have agreed to work together with all higher education stakeholders to ensure that students acknowledge the great strides that have been made in providing financial support in order to open access to higher education," said Zuma.

He admitted that, despite government increasing funding for students at varsities from R441m in 1997 to over R9.5bnin 2015, it was still not sufficient to support poor students. Zuma said they were working on processes for dispersing funds and rooting out fraud, as well as sourcing more funding.

"…. Where financial aid is well managed and where there is good communication between management and students, student financial problems have not led to violent protests,"he said.

Chairperson of the USA and Vice-Chancellor of Wits University Professor Adam Habib said universities were democratic spaces where protests and conflicting views must be debated, but that the use of violence to achieve any objective should never be accepted.

Read more on:    adam habib  |  jacob zuma  |  pretoria  |  protests  |  universities

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