Students vow to close varsities

A fresh wave of protests at universities across the country is looming after students said their demands were being ignored.
A fresh wave of protests at universities across the country is looming after students said their demands were being ignored.
Image: ALON SKUY

A fresh wave of protests at universities across the country is looming.

The South African Union of Students (SAUS) has accused minister of higher education, science and technology Blade Nzimande of not taking them serious.

Last week, SAUS delivered a memorandum of demands to Nzimande and gave him seven days to respond.

The union met on Saturday and decided that they would shut down universities "because that is the only language he understands".

SAUS national spokesperson Thabo Shingane said even though Nzimande responded to their grievances, his response did not address the issues they raised.

"As the South African Union of Students, together with Student Representative Council presidents and secretary generals have resolved on a national shutdown following the failure of the minister to respond positively to fundamental demands of students.

"We still have hungry students sleeping on the streets and the minister failed to address that issue," Shingane said.

He said Nzimande has merely responded for the sake of responding.

"He has not demonstrated any leadership and will to address our demands nor has he contemplated the extent to which he is undermining the registration period," Shingane said.

Some of the demands by the student body are the allocation of debt relief fund for clearance of student debts and that all students with historical debts must be allowed to register, that students be given their academic records and certificates despite owing universities and that postgraduate students and B-Techs must be allowed to register.

"We are demanding postgraduate funding, correct accreditation process for private accommodation and free registration for vulnerable, poor and missing middle students.

"We demand revision of the department's bursary guidelines to include submissions made by SRC presidents last year, especially on off-campus students allowances and free sanitary towels for women students and that there should be food security for hungry poor students who are unfunded," said Shingane.

Nzimande said the department has provided significant funding towards the eradication of historic debt for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) qualifying students.

"I am aware that there is significant student debt within the university system owed by students who are not NSFAS beneficiaries. Unfortunately, public funds for the university system are constrained and there is no possibility that debts of students who are not National Student Financial Aid Scheme qualifying can be eradicated by government.

"The department is also working to develop a regulatory framework for university fees which will in the longer term ensure that fees are kept at affordable levels," Nzimande said.

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