SA Union of Students vows to fight on

Student union claims ‘partial victory’ in fees protests

Wits University students march to Luthuli House to handover memorandum during the protest over Financial exclusion by the University in Johannesburg.
Wits University students march to Luthuli House to handover memorandum during the protest over Financial exclusion by the University in Johannesburg.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

While some universities have agreed to register students despite their unpaid debt, the SA Union of Students (Saus), which is spearheading the latest fees protests, said this was only a partial victory.

The University of Cape Town and University of the Free State are among those that have unblocked indebted students from their registration systems.

“Students have scored some victories in the protests but most of these victories are campus-based, not national. When it comes to the national demands made, the leadership continues to engage and try to find common ground,” said Saus national organiser Yandisa Nzoyiya.

“The demand to clear all student debt has not been met. Not all institutions have agreed to register all students. Other demands related to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), such as appeals and the reopening of applications, have not been met.

“The protests will continue until campus leaders indicate satisfaction on their side. We want all students to be registered, accommodated and fed. Then we will be happy.”

Tertiary learning has faced disruption this month as students took to the streets to protest. At the top of their agenda was access to free education, particularly for middle-class students who did not qualify for bursaries offered by NSFAS.

  • the clearing of historical debt for all students;
  • allowing registration for academically and financially deserving students;
  • no financial and academic exclusion; and
  • a solid plan for funding the missing middle students.

Higher education minister Blade Nzimande appealed to students on Tuesday to end their national shutdown, but Nzoyiya remained confident victory was imminent.

“Students demands will be met and free education will be delivered as long as students remain true to their struggles,” he said.

Universities SA (Usaf) chairperson Prof Ahmed Bawa told Sowetan's sister publication, TimesLIVE, that technology had played a role in the impact of the protests. “The systems put in place for the use of technology in learning will change the nature of student engagement,” Bawa said.

While Nzimande was seemingly quashing students' concerns, Bawa said the struggles being faced by students had been festering for too long.

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