Campuses closed while students living in debt

By Staff Writer
Despite a statement from Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on Tuesday, confirming that the fee increment will be capped at six percent nationally, students across the country continue to strike in the growing #FeesMustFall debacle.

According to a report, Nzimande went further in highlighting that this figure was only proposed for the year 2016 and “we will establish a task team that will look at the whole issue of fees and increases. The task team will report back in six months.”

Students, however, have remained displeased as they continue to protest in favour of their proposed zero percent increase and an end to excessive tuition fee adjustments in the future.

This has seen universities across the country come to a standstill this week as they have engaged in various forms of protest from sit-ins and on-campus marches to barricading and blocking off roads in and around the campus vicinity.

Today seeing the height of protesting thus far as a reported1000 UCT students made their way to the Parliament building in Cape Town in an attempt to disrupt Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s mini budget speech, after many a call on government to intervene in the escalating fee increment debate.
However, student opposition is not the only kind that Nzimande, under the ban of the ANC, has received.

Political parties react

According to a report, “DA spokesperson on higher education Professor Belinda Bozzoli said the agreement was "nothing more than a band aid solution that does nothing to address the chronic under-funding of institutions of higher education and the R51bn shortfall in NSFAS funding.”

Another opposition party that weighed in was the EFF, through spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, as he emphasized that Nzimande’s “decision to negotiate with universities without students at the table was, not only undemocratic, but also undermined the students' voice as a community.”

Student debt

“The reality of the cost of higher education means that many students are in debt before they are employed and have a means of paying it off,” said debt counselling company, Debtbusters.

The cost of a general undergraduate degree on average is anywhere between R30 000 and R35 000 for one year currently, subject, however, to your choice in institution. With the proposed increase of six percent, the same degree would now cost anywhere between R 31 800 and R 37 100 in 2016.
 
“And it is not just the initial cost of the loan that is an expense to students and their families, but the interest charged and the time it will take to pay back the loan as well. Students are also required to apply for a new loan for each year of study, with the application requiring proof of registration from the university and the cost of study for the year,” said Debtbusters.
 
Still it is the consensus of African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, that students cease protests as they are currently doing to prevent the risk of them not being able to write final examinations.

Mantashe reportedlysaid: “A number of students will lose a year … (that) cost will be much bigger than the increase they are fighting against."

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