Students should fight for their right for quality education – but should exercise caution while doing so, said Minister for Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande today in Joburg.
“I am not against student protest but we should try and minimise it. It can waste time – and time lost can never be recovered,” he said during a meeting held at the University of Johannesburg with various stakeholders in tertiary education, including a number of student bodies.
The meeting was aimed at providing information and options for young South Africans interested in furthering their studies after matric. Nzimande however took the opportunity to comment on the disruptive student protests that occurred at various institutions last year.
Nzimande said that the department experienced mild turmoil in 2014, due to protests at Medunsa and Tshwane University of Technology, but worked hard to ensure that all major student grievances were addressed.
“In almost all the instances that resulted in protests, we realised that there had been some misunderstanding and some of the resultant protests even exaggerated the nature of the existing problems.”
Subsequently Nzimande hoped to create annual platforms in which students could directly address grievances with the department.
He said that the department had made strides in improving the quality of higher education in South Africa but critics failed “to see the good work the department has done”.
“People like to criticise. Criticism is good but it doesn’t always have to be bad. As a department we have a good story to tell.”
Nzimande revealed that more R12 billion over the past eight years had been allocated to improving and creating new institutions of higher education.
To reduce the mismanagement of funds, he said the department would now require all universities to produce a maintenance plans before they are given funds for upgrades.
“Other than the glitches, and this is not to undermine the incidents and the issues involved, we had a good year with regard to the implementation of our mandate as the Department of Higher Education and Training. We are making progress as a country in this sphere. But what we need to ask is: ‘What will we do to make sure that this works out?’”.