Govt going in circles on free education - student group

2016-09-08 15:00
Construction work is underway at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Howard College Law Library. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

Construction work is underway at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Howard College Law Library. (Kaveel Singh, News24)

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Durban - The SA Democratic Student Movement (Sadesmo) on Thursday said free quality education was possible in the country, but only if there were committed leaders with a clear vision and the political will to do so.

Addressing the media at the Inkatha Freedom Party's headquarters in Durban, national spokesperson Nonkululeko Nkwanyana said the organisation was in full support of the student protests at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

"I believe that the crux of the protests is that the ANC is not addressing the matter, they are beating around the bush.

"What can solve this matter is for the president to step up and say, 'Free education will occur', because this is possible," said Nkwanyana.

Nkwanyana said the government did not want to listen to students.

"They are going around in circles, when it is clear that they need to sit down, cut down on all the unnecessary costs that the country currently finances, and fund education. The reality is that they are not willing to do that, they are not listening."

'It's not a dream'

Nkwanyana said South Africa was a country with vast resources.

"If we were serious with the intention of free education, they must do what they did in 2010 when they went to countries and sourced funding to build stadia for the 2010 World Cup.

"It all starts with the government: Corruption is in government and if it means changing the government for free education then so be it because free education is possible, it is not a dream. The ANC, when campaigning, they sold us dreams of a free education to get votes but have not done that.

"Government needs to clean up its act. The money that was spent on paying artists to campaign for the ANC during the local government election could have been given toward free education. It is ridiculous that the minister is considering a fee increment."

KwaZulu-Natal co-ordinator Sbongakonke Mhlongo said setting up commissions to look at the possibility of free education was a waste of money.

"We want free education, not these useless commissions. We don't want to entertain the commissions. A few years ago Minister Blade Nzimande was tasked to look into whether free education was feasible, why did they not refer to his report? All we need is political will; they need to step aside if they cannot implement free education."

Regarding the student protest at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Mhlongo condemned the burning of university property, including the burning of a law library at Howard College on Tuesday evening.

"We regret any form of vandalism because it has an element of undermining our objectives. During the student protest [this week] we witnessed police brutality at its core. I am still traumatised and some of the students need counselling for what happened at the university," said Mhlongo.

Students arrested

Mhlongo also called on the university to investigate private security company Mi7 which allegedly manhandled students during the protest.

Earlier this week university management announced that the institution would close from September 7 to 19 with the academic programme resuming on September 20.

Thirteen students, aged between 17 and 20, were arrested for public violence, contravening a court order and causing damage to property at the UKZN Westville campus on Monday night.

Police said six vehicles were burnt and a building set alight at the campus.

On Tuesday police dispersed a crowd of around 30 students who were chanting struggle songs at the UKZN Westville campus. Students reported being tear-gassed. A small fire in a bin had to be extinguished.

The university's Howard College and Pietermaritzburg campuses also experienced violent student protests with groups of students being dispersed by police firing rubber bullets in some cases.

Last week Tuesday the Howard College coffee shop was set alight while the Pietermaritzburg main exam hall went up in flames a day later.

Read more on:    education  |  university fees  |  protests

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