Acting Public Protector to meet with Nzimande amid students' fees protests

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Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande.
Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande.
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  • The meeting comes after the SA Students Union declared a nationwide shutdown of universities.
  • Acting Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka is expected to hold a series of engagements with universities over the next five weeks 
  • Chaotic scenes have emerged following SASU declaring a nationwide shutdown of all 26 universities. 

Acting Public Protector Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka is expected to have a virtual meeting with Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande as part of her effort to find a solution to the problems many university students face.

"We see this volatility every single year. The question is where is the planning? How do we make sure that students are in lecture halls at the start of each academic year rather than see them pouring into the streets to protest for access to tertiary education? How do we curb the arrests and the brutality at the hands of the police? We need to find lasting solutions," Gcaleka said.

This after the SA Students Union (SASU) declared a nationwide shutdown of universities.

READ | Student fees: Acting public protector to visit institutions over access to tertiary education

On Tuesday, she joined the provincial representative of the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) at the University of Venda in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, where they engaged with the management, student leadership and campus office attached to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) as part of a series of engagements scheduled over the next five weeks.

In a joint effort with the SAHRC, the Public Protector's office is hoping to help the parties find solutions aimed at curbing a recurrence of the violent scenes that have been seen at various institutions of higher learning over the years.

The two institutions are also considering requesting that SASU and the SA Universities Vice Chancellors Association also meet.

Earlier, Gcaleka met with University of Venda vice-chancellor Dr Ndanduleni Bernard Nthambeleni, who informed her the university's 2020 academic activities have overlapped into 2021 due to challenges brought about by Covid-19.

As a result, said Nthambeleni, students at the institution would only complete their 2020 examinations on Thursday.

He added it was critical examinations be concluded soon as that would unlock the 2021 academic year's NSFAS funding.

Nthambeleni said the institution began registering students for the current year at the beginning of the month. About half of the targeted 1 800 were already registered.

Public Protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe told News24: "The meeting will take place virtually and it will not be an open meeting. We will be sending out a statement on what was discussed."

WATCH | Police deny firing live shots at protesters as student demonstrations flare up again

Chaotic scenes have emerged following SASU declaring a nationwide shutdown of the 26 universities in the country.

On Monday, Wits University and University of Johannesburg (UJ) students took to the streets, making good on their promises to shut down the 26 institutions.

Chaos erupted after police used water cannons and teargas on the protesters as they approached the M1 from UJ Bunting Campus. Students are calling for historical debt to be scrapped and a 0% increase for the 2021 academic year.

On Monday, Nzimande said the government was in no position to scrap student debt.

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