Department has no money to pay students' debt with varsities, says Nzimande

Minister of High Education Dr Blade Nzimande
Minister of High Education Dr Blade Nzimande
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Minister of higher education Blade Nzimande says his department does not have money to support tertiary institutions to clear all students’ historical debt.

Nzimande was responding to the letter of demand by the South African Union of Student (SAUS)  in which the body announced that the  a national shutdown will kick-start at the 26 public universities across the country on Monday.

In a letter sent to the minister last week, students demanded that historical debt of all students be cleared.

Nzimande said the department was aware that there are many families  struggling to keep up with fee payments as they had been negatively affected by the pandemic.

“I am aware that many institutions are doing what they can to assist students in need and to allow them to make payment arrangements so as to be able to register. However, institutions also have to remain financially sustainable in order to continue to operate effectively. The historical debt of NSFAS (National Student Financial Aid Scheme) qualifying students is being addressed,” he said.

SAUS also demanded the: 

•Immediate provision of postgraduate funding.

•Allocation of NSFAS for first entering students.

•Laptops to be provided to students as the academic year starts.

•Free registration for all students during the 2021 academic year.

•A zero percent fee increase for the 2021 academic year, free quality education for the poor and missing middle.

•Suspension of the academic exclusion for the 2021 academic year because of the impact of Covid-19 and also the extension of the registration period to April 30.

Nzimande said the issue of postgraduate was an important matter that needed to be addressed in the policy review process that will be undertaken this academic year by the department.

“The process of laptops is managed by NSFAS who have placed the first order and the first deliveries will be made in April. The NSFAS funding to students will only be released once students are registered and confirmed for funding.”

Nzimande said all institutions told the department that they have mechanism in place to ensure that students with debts are able to receive academic records and certificates of completion for the purpose of furthering their studies and accessing employment opportunities.

He said the department will be doing urgent work to review the current funding policy of government to  examine its overall affordability and sustainability.

“I urge student structures to continue engaging with the management teams of all our public  universities. Many of the matters that you (SAUS) have raised with me require that students and university management work together at institutional level,” he said.

Meanwhile, Universities South Africa will on Monday hold a meeting with 26 vice-chancellors to discuss the issues raised by students.

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