Violence takes us backwards – Blade Nzimande

Violence at universities will not be tolerated, says Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.

“No matter what the grievance is, violence and destruction is totally unacceptable and we will act against people who do that,” he told reporters at the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria today.

“They are breaking the law and it is unacceptable behaviour. Violence is out. It is like some in our communities who burn a library (while) demanding a clinic. It just takes us backwards.”

Nzimande said he raised the matter when he met student representatives.

Despite the significant increase, government funding to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), to cater for poor and disabled students, was still insufficient.

“Government remains committed to expanding the amount of money committed to poor students. That is part of the government’s commitment to provide free higher education for poor students,” said Nzimande.

He said the NSFAS purse had been increased from R3 billion to R9.5bn over the past five years.

“It is important that despite challenges, we appreciate the huge difference that this fund has made to now more than 1.5 million, mainly black, South Africans who would not have been able to see the door of a college,” said Nzimande.

Yesterday, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of the Witwatersrand, Prof Adam Habib, said the higher education sector was at risk due to lack of funding.

“The amount of funding available for students wanting to pursue tertiary education is inadequate and well below that of international norms in similar developing countries,” he said in Johannesburg.

“The sector is at risk due to lack of substantial funding from the state and other societal actors.”

For 2015, Wits has been allocated R179m by NSFAS. Of this R152m has been offered to 2090 returning and 330 first-year students.

In Pretoria, TUT acting vice-chancellor and principal, Prof Lourens van Staden, said his institution had received R475m from NSFAS.

The aid scheme was started with a fund of R441m for all institutions.

“This means only for TUT, there is now more money than there was when NSFAS was started many years ago. Now there is R9.5bn for the system. That is unheard of in any (other) country,” said Van Staden.

“We acknowledge the good work.”

He said the R475m would be divided into packages of about R32 000 for every student getting help from the scheme this year.

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