Protests reached boiling point today at the University of Witwatersrand (WITS) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) as students reacted to the fee adjustment announcement by Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, yesterday. With pressure being put on leadership at both university and governmental level, Treasury weighed in on the matter.
“Following the announcement by Nzimande on higher education fees, National Treasury has been inundated with enquiries on how the shortfall will be funded. It is important to note that, a policy decision has been made to subsidise the fees of those students from poor backgrounds and the “missing middle” students (those who are classified as “too rich” to qualify for government support, but “too poor” to afford tuition fees),” stated Treasury.
The Democratic Alliance Student Organisations (DASO) agreed as they called on students to resist being misled by protests for a 0% fee increase and instead protest on behalf of those who can’t afford to pay fees at all.
“Importantly, the right to protest does not grant students the right to deny others their right to education. Students should instead consolidate around the call for free higher education for the poor with support for the missing middle – and importantly for the ANC national government to ensure that this additional funding is made available,” stated DASO.
They added that they are currently exploring different mechanisms of finding the money to pay for the subsidy. “The department is embarking on a prioritising drive and working with various departments and agencies to address the shortfall.”
Unhappy at the recommendations made yesterday students have proceeded to engage in mass protests today, some of which have turned violent. As some universities have suspended class and other campus activities till further notice.
“In the present constrained fiscal environment this is an extremely challenging situation. It is important therefore that, those who can afford to pay do so to enable the state to support the ever increasing numbers of those who deserve support and cannot afford,” stated Treasury.
They called on NSFAS beneficiaries who are employed to start repaying their loans. “This is part of each citizenry responsibility to play a part in helping other students who are in need of financial aid.”
National Treasury will continue to work with the Department of Higher Education and Training on the fees matter and are set to announce the results of the process on 26 October 2016.
DA calls for immediate action
DASO amongst others still think that the government has done little to address and deal with students’ immediate fee concerns.
“The announcement by the Minister only deals with immediate fee concerns and does not in any way deal with the central issue facing students, namely financial exclusion for furthering ones studies.”
The organisation called for the fees commission to report back in time for free higher education for the poor with support for the missing middle to be incorporated into the next budget as this is the central issue facing students.
“Funding must be made available to ensure unfunded students currently registered are funded to succeed academically.
“We will be consulting with students and other students structures on how best to realise this without disrupting the academic programme. In no circumstances should university property be damaged and other students’ right to education be interfered with,” added the DA shadow minister of higher education, Belinda Bozzoli.
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