Acting Public Protector Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka says it is imperative that students are in lecture halls at the beginning of each academic year, and not in the streets protesting for access to tertiary education.
Gcaleka, who has thrown her weight behind finding solutions for the ongoing financial struggles and protests by university students, said in a statement on Tuesday, that long-lasting solutions should be found to the student funding crisis.
She said the arrests and police brutality against students every time the academic year starts should stop.
Gcaleka and the provincial representative of the SA Human Rights Commission, Victor Mavhidula were at the University of Venda in Thohoyandou in Limpopo, where they “engaged management, student leadership and the campus office of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (Nsfas) as part of a series of such engagements scheduled for the next five weeks”.
The Public Protector’s office announced that Gcaleka “has also written to the Nsfas CEO Andile Nongogo, to secure an urgent audience with him”.
She added: “We see this volatility every single year. The question is, where is the planning?”
The statement added that Gcaleka would on Tuesday meet with Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande “over the plight of students”.
“Gcaleka will this evening meet virtually with Nzimande as part of a multi-pronged mediation aimed at finding lasting solutions to the challenges that have seen students declaring a shutdown of universities across the country.”
This comes amid the intensifying student protests across South African universities. The are protesting against financial exclusion of academically deserving students who cannot register for this year because of outstanding fees.
Students are also demanding that universities should allow all those with historical debt to register.
City Press reported that students had given Nzimande an ultimatum to either scrap the student debt or see them shut down universities.
On Sunday the SA Union of Students (SAUS), which represents 26 student representative councils at universities, said a meeting of “all SRCs in the country” on “March 13 and 14,” “we have taken the decision to shut down learning at public universities”.
“The meeting resolved to call for a national shutdown of all the 26 universities from Monday March 15. All 26 university SRCs have supported this decision unanimously. The shutdown will continue until our demands are met,” SAUS said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.
Last Wednesday SAUS demanded that President Cyril Ramaphosa should issue a directive to Cabinet to reverse the R6 billion Nsfas budget cut.
Other demands included free registration for all student this year, a 0% fee increase as well as suspension of academic exclusion for this academic year because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the statement, Gcaleka met with University of Venda vice-chancellor, Ndanduleni Nthambeleni, who informed her that last year’s academic activities had overlapped into this year “due to challenges brought about by Covid-19, and as a result, students at the institutions are completing last year’s examinations on Thursday”.