Speedy solution to campus fees issue is unlikely

2010-01-26 00:00

THE problem of students being excluded from registering because they have failed to settle sums owing from the previous year is unlikely to be solved this financial year.

That was the word from the minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, who is visiting different institutions to monitor registration and troubleshoot the problems that arise during the exercise.

Nzimande was speaking during his brief interaction with a few members of the student representative council (SRC) at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), after visiting its Indumiso and Riverside campuses yesterday.

Nzimande told the SRC that he is aware of the problem, and this is why a committee has been deployed to review this and other issues related to the financing formula used in universities

The minister said the committee considers the plight of only those students whose parents earn R120 000 per year or less.

“It is something that we need to closely look at while we try build towards free education, because it is a serious problem in universities around the country.

“The point is that not many students receive full financial aid. And those who don’t would have to balance the rest. The University of Fort Hare is in serious trouble because of the debt of former students.”

Nzimande later told The Witness that through conducting these visits, he has observed a gross lack of communication and engagement between management and students.

He said this is not only the case at DUT but a challenge for many universities.

“You don’t need a boycott of classes before engaging with students. Sit down in time and talk, ideally before the year ends … so that these issues are resolved.”

Nzimande said accommodation repeatedly comes up as a challenge and will be looked at closely.

“We are really victims of our own success. We have been calling for an increase in intake, which we have done. We currently have more females in South African universities than males. We grew in numbers but infrastructure lagged behind.”

He expects the findings and recommendations of a review committee by the end of this month. In March, the department will be able to release the report for public comment. But while proposals on how to tackle these issues will be made, the problems won’t be wiped out in a year, Nzimande added.

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