Students reject Blade’s 8%

2016-09-20 09:41
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande.

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande. (File)

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WATCH: Hundreds join mass meeting over fees at UCT

2016-09-19 17:27

Hundreds of students met at Jamieson (or, Marikana) Hall on Monday afternoon.WATCH

Before Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande could finish his announcement that universities could increase fees by up to eight percent for 2017, it was widely rejected by student leaders and some universities were already on edge.

Not even the exemption of the so-called “missing middle” and those students qualifying for National Student Financial Aid Scheme funding from the 2017 fee increases could save Nzimande’s long-awaited announcement.

In an apparent show of disillusionment, University of KwaZulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg campus students are expected to take their demands to the provincial legislature on Tuesday.

Attempts to get comment from UKZN were unsuccessful, but The Witness understands that the university council met yesterday to discuss the fee increase.

One of the FeesMustFall movement leaders at the Pietermaritzburg campus, Chuma Wakeni, said Nzimande’s announcement never spoke to the movement’s call for “fees to fall”.

The movement includes students from various political formations united in their pursuit of free tertiary education.

“We never spoke about a zero percent fee increment; we spoke about free education,” he said.

Students planned a night vigil, gathering from 6 pm on Monday, and to commence their march to the legislature at 10.30 am on Teusday.

“We are getting calls from parents who are saying that they are supporting our call for free education. We are also getting support from local communities and churches.

“We have spoken to TVET [Technical and Vocational Education and Training] colleges and we are hoping they will be joining us as well. At the moment, we are finalising everything and organising transport for people in Durban to come and join us,” he said.

Protests on the Pietermaritzburg campus, which led to several clashes between students and security guards and police, caused lectures to be suspended for two weeks before the university moved the September holidays forward.

With lectures scheduled to resume today, police maintained a heavy presence in and around the campus on Monday.

Siphelele Nguse, president of the SRC in Pietermaritzburg, failed to return calls for comment, but Howard College SRC deputy president Sunshine Myende also rejected Nzimande’s proposed fee increment.

“From the beginning of our protests, we were clear that we do not want any increase,” she said.

Myende, however, added the student body would still have to determine how the increase, capped at eight percent, would affect UKZN students.

She said yesterday’s council meeting would “determine various factors around the increase”.

“Council must speak on the fee increments. Everything will be determined by the council meeting. We want free education. And we want it … to be this year or never.”

The Pietermaritzburg and Howard College campuses have been beset by protest action in recent weeks, with a revered law library in Durban and an exam centre in the capital being torched.

DA Students Organisation UKZN representative Sizwe Msweli said Nzimande’s announcement provided only a short-term solution.

“We recognise the fact that poor and middle class students will not be affected by the increase, but this is not free education.

“We are encouraging students not to direct their frustrations at the universities, but to rather direct them at the government itself,” he said.

Nonkululeko Nkwanyana of the IFP-aligned Sadesmo said Nzimande had failed to address many issues they had been expecting him to.

“Their definition of the missing middle is not clear. They are saying that they will assist households with an income of up to R600 000 per annum. What about a parent who earns above R600 000 per annum and has five children at tertiary level and cannot afford to pay fees?

“NSFAS has failed dismally to provide for needy students. There are students who do not need funding but get it, and there are students who need it but do not get it,” she said.

Nkwanyana said Nzimande’s announcement also indicated that the government was not moving towards providing free education.

“Last year the president announced a zero percent fee increment. If we are moving towards free education, then we cannot have a fee increment this year.

“We expected them to say there will be no registration fee next year,” she said.

The EFF Students Command said students had made it clear that they would not be satisfied with anything besides “free, quality, decolonised and well resourced education”.

At the University of the Witwaters­rand, students gathered to discuss the announcement, with a complete shutdown of the university being suggested by some.

The University of Cape Town suspended the academic programme in anticipation of the fee increment announcement.

UNIVERSITIES SA (USAf) welcomed Nzimande’s advice on the fees adjustment for 2017.

The organisation, which has 26 public universities as members, said each council would consider the minister’s advice and act on it.

CEO Professor Ahmed Bawa said USAf’s major concern now is to safeguard South Africa’s academic project for the 2016 and 2017 academic years, and beyond.

“This is a challenge for the entire sector and society more generally. We call on student leaders, academic and support staff, vice-chancellors and university executives and university Chairs of Council to work together to ensure that the academic year is not jeopardised,” he said

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  fees must fall

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