Violent minority causing trouble at varsities - Nzimande

2016-04-21 17:15
Blade ­Nzimande (Tina Hsu, News24)

Blade ­Nzimande (Tina Hsu, News24)

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Cape Town - A minority of students were forcing universities to spend millions on additional security, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said in his budget vote speech on Thursday.

"Those who have engaged in this destruction must ask themselves who are they hurting, and why?" Nzimande told MPs gathered in the old national assembly at Parliament.

"They should recognise the vast majority of students are hard at work, determined to get their qualifications and empower themselves, their families, and their communities."

The 2015 academic year ended in countrywide protests as students demanded that their be no fee increase in 2016 and that universities stop employing outsourced staff through labour brokers.

Nzimande told reporters earlier that the department had already been working on alleviating the fee burden by the time the protests had started, because it knew students were battling to afford higher education.

On October 21 last year, protesters stormed onto the parliamentary precinct while former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene delivered his revised budget. Police fired stun grenades to disperse the students, arresting some, and over the next few weeks universities were closed. Exams were abandoned and students went into the December holidays, not knowing if they were going into the next academic year or not.

'Fringe element'

Earlier this year, students at the University of Cape Town painted statues of Jan Smuts and Maria Emmeline Barnard Fuller red, saying the pre-democracy symbols were painful to them. They burned paintings that they had removed from the walls of residences.

Rhodes University suspended lectures this week after a group of students protested against the university's rape policy and posted online a list of 11 men they say are guilty of rape or sexual harassment.

At Thursday's briefing, Nzimande said it was not ideal to have police and heightened security on campuses.

"It's like you don't want to see police in your house, but if there is a burglary, you want to see the police because that's where you go for help, or private security."

He said he was worried about what universities were spending on private security.

"But the fact of the matter is there is this fringe element who wants to impose its will through violence, intimidation and destruction."

DA MP Belinda Bozzoli said in reply to the budget vote speech that it was only after at least R300m worth of damage to universities and the "Philistine" destruction of cultural artefacts, that the government suddenly found the money it had been claiming it did not have.

The department's budget was increased from R42bn in 2015/16, to R49.2bn for 2016/17 and R55.3bn for 2018/19.

'Warped sense of hope'

It had also found the R2.3bn shortfall caused by the decision to freeze fees.

But, Nzimande said this was at the expense of other programmes, such as one worth more than R800m for students who had been chosen to further their studies overseas, and some Sector Education Training Authorities.

Nzimande said no student who qualified for the National Student Financial Aid Scheme funding should be turned away, even if the money had not been released yet.

The budget also included training over 21 000 skilled artisans, growing the recently opened Sol Plaatje University and the University of Mpumalanga. South Africa's ninth medical school, the University of Limpopo, had also opened its doors to its first 60 students.

The higher education bill in Parliament would also task university councils with driving transformation more vigorously, Nzimande said.

FF Plus MP Anton Alberts said the ANC was making too many education promises.

"But a false one sets the table for a revolution. Too many people are applying for access to universities with a completely warped sense of hope."

Read more on:    ff plus  |  blade ­nzimande  |  cape town  |  parliament 2016  |  education  |  university protests

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