Oppositions slam 'band aid' response to education crisis

Johannesburg - Opposition parties have rejected the agreement to cap fee hikes at 6% for 2016, announced by Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande and university vice chancellors on Tuesday afternoon.

DA spokesperson on higher education Professor Belinda Bozzoli said the agreement was "nothing more than a band aid solution that does nothing to address the chronic under-funding of institutions of higher education and the R51bn shortfall in NSFAS funding".

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Nzimande's decision to negotiate with universities without students at the table was, not only undemocratic, but also undermined the students' voice as a community.

Ndlozi said the EFF supported the National Day of Action taking place on Wednesday by students across the country.

"We urge workers, lecturers and all other South Africans to join in the demonstrations for a no-fee university. Nothing is more urgent, more important and absolutely fundamental than the education of our youth," he said.

Both Bozzoli and Ndlozi were in agreement that Finance Minister Nhlahla Nene should, in his mid-term budget, announce a significant increase for higher education funding.

Nene will announce his mid-term budget on Wednesday.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa, however, said that while they supported the call for fees to fall at higher education institutions, the ANC "urges all stakeholders to embrace the process of negotiation in good faith and collectively, work for practical and sustainable solutions that bring us closer to the realisation of the Freedom Charter demand for free quality education". 

Kodwa said: "More must be done by all social partners, including the private sector, to meet the demands of students and society in general for an education system that does not entrench inequality and is accessible to all."

Protesting students at Wits University have rejected a proposed 6% cap on university fee hikes for 2016 and have demanded a 0% increase.

Student protests have erupted across the country since the Wits protests started on Wednesday last week.

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