State read­ies for fees chaos

CityPress - - News - S’THEM­BILE CELE sthem­bile.cele@city­press.co.za

The re­open­ing of ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions next year might get off to a rocky start af­ter a few stu­dent lead­ers re­jected what ap­peared to be a last-ditch at­tempt by gov­ern­ment to pre-empt po­ten­tial na­tion­wide stu­dent protests dur­ing the 2016 reg­is­tra­tion pe­riod.

The de­part­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing has been work­ing with po­lice to pre­pare for the worst. Stu­dents have been warned that those who par­tic­i­pate in any dis­rup­tive protests will be dealt with.

Higher ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Khaye Nk­wanyana said there were co­or­di­nated ef­forts to iden­tify flash points in all nine prov­inces.

“We are not go­ing to tol­er­ate any acts of hooli­gan­ism, where stu­dents go out­side struc­tures like the SRC [Stu­dents’ Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Coun­cil] and de­cide to start a strike. Po­lice must act and en­force the law. We are not say­ing this must be vi­o­lent, but they must pro­tect our in­sti­tu­tions. Po­lice are pre­par­ing for the worst next year, so we want to co­or­di­nate with them,” he said.

“Their man­date in the prov­inces will come from na­tional level. Em­pha­sis will be on flash points like Gaut­eng and the Western Cape.

Po­lice spokesper­son Bri­gadier Hang­wani Mu­laudzi said law en­force­ment agen­cies were ex­pect­ing “a lot of prob­lems” when uni­ver­si­ties re­opened, but “as the po­lice, we are ready for ac­tion”.

On Thurs­day, SRC pres­i­dents met Min­is­ter of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Blade Nz­i­mande in Joburg at the in­vi­ta­tion of the par­lia­men­tary port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on higher ed­u­ca­tion.

SRC mem­ber at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria Thabo Shin­gange, who was at the round ta­ble dis­cus­sion, said: “In short, they were say­ing, ‘Don’t strike’ and most of us replied, ‘Un­der such cir­cum­stances, a strike of even greater mag­ni­tude is in­evitable.’”

He said he got the feel­ing gov­ern­ment was on a fact-find­ing mis­sion to gauge where stu­dents were in terms of pro­ceed­ing with protests, “hence the point on the agenda of the ‘role of SRCs in sta­bil­is­ing the 2016 reg­is­tra­tion pro­cesses’”.

Shin­gange said he did not get the sense that there was a clear di­rec­tion in deal­ing with stu­dent de­mands.

This was echoed by deputy SRC pres­i­dent at Unisa Phumelele Nokele, who de­cided to boy­cott the meet­ing.

“We were not aware Blade Nz­i­mande would be there. Even if we were, our po­si­tion is that these dis­cus­sions are now a fu­tile ex­er­cise. We keep hav­ing the same con­ver­sa­tion with no re­sults. They know there are de­mands. We are tired of talk with no ac­tion.

“It will not be reg­is­tra­tion as nor­mal in 2016,” he vowed.

SRC ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber at Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity Lwazi Pakade said the is­sue of reg­is­tra­tion in the new year had al­ready be­come an is­sue.

“Many stu­dents are ask­ing me via email if they should come back next year since they have a lot of debt, which will pre­vent them from be­ing able to reg­is­ter.

“We’re telling them to come back and we’ll try our best to at­tend to them. The debt is just one is­sue; the other is that of coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to keep the cur­rent lan­guage pol­icy as it is, even though we have said it is plac­ing many of us at a dis­ad­van­tage.”

At the meet­ing, Nz­i­mande of­fered an un­con­di­tional apol­ogy to stu­dents for the “stu­dents must fall” com­ment, which he said was in jest. He also told the group he felt he was be­ing mis­un­der­stood on cer­tain mat­ters.

He had said: “If at any time you want to meet with me, I am avail­able.”

How­ever, a com­ment he had made on free ed­u­ca­tion not be­ing pos­si­ble in a cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety did not go down well with the group.

He said free ed­u­ca­tion in an un­equal so­ci­ety like South Africa would have un­in­tended con­se­quences for the rich. He cited the in­stance of the chil­dren of min­is­ters who could af­ford to go to uni­ver­sity.

A com­mit­ment that Shin­gange and oth­ers ac­knowl­edged was an out­come from the meet­ing that a Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme of­fi­cial would be de­ployed at ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion na­tion­wide to deal with fund­ing is­sues at the open­ing of uni­ver­si­ties. This was con­firmed by Nk­wanyana. “Every year, we have is­sues re­lat­ing to fund­ing. So we have de­cided to cut out the mid­dle man – the uni­ver­sity – by hav­ing of­fi­cials on site.”

Nk­wanyana said the talks with uni­ver­si­ties re­gard­ing this were still un­der way.

Port­fo­lio com­mit­tee chair­per­son Yvonne Phosa said the pur­pose of the meet­ing to hear the stu­dents was to “get con­sen­sus on mat­ters go­ing for­ward”.

“We wanted to know what was the best way to en­sure there is nor­mal­i­sa­tion af­ter the protests and the le­git­i­mate is­sues that were raised, [as well as] gov­ern­ment’s dec­la­ra­tion that it is deal­ing with those is­sues. We hoped all of us would agree that the way for­ward was to go back to classes. We need this to hap­pen in a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment. We did not want to im­pose; we wanted con­sen­sus.”

She said the com­mit­tee found the stu­dents “were agree­able to go­ing back to classes, on con­di­tion all is­sues are ad­dressed. We said they were be­ing ad­dressed, gov­ern­ment is giv­ing it at­ten­tion and will re­spond in due time.”

PHOTO: PE­TER ABRA­HAMS

MARCH ON

UCT stu­dents take their protest to the streets dur­ing the re­cent #FeesMustFall cam­paign

PHOTO: FE­LIX DLANGA­MANDLA

WIN­DOW WATCH­ERS Wits stu­dents await the out­come of a uni­ver­sity coun­cil meet­ing dur­ing the re­cent na­tional fees protest

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