Blade has high hopes for aca­demic year

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

AG­GRIEVED ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents had the right to vent their con­cerns through peace­ful protests, but chok­ing the whole sec­tor through vi­o­lent protests was un­called for, South Africa Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande said yes­ter­day.

“Please don’t for­get that while ev­ery­one has the con­sti­tu­tional right to protest peace­fully, the equally im­por­tant right of those who wish to con­tinue with teach­ing and learn­ing, un­hin­dered and with­out in­tim­i­da­tion, must also be re­spected,” he said in Pre­to­ria.

“Some of the is­sues fac­ing our col­leges can be dealt with in the short term, par­tic­u­larly if we all dis­play good­will and a will­ing­ness to en­gage. Many oth­ers will re­quire time to solve, and I’m call­ing for pa­tience, un­der­stand­ing, and en­gage­ment and di­a­logue as we work to­gether to re­solve these chal­lenges.”

Nz­i­mande held his reg­u­lar meet­ings with higher ed­u­ca­tion stake­hold­ers, among them stu­dent lead­ers and vice-chan­cel­lors, as well as the ex­ec­u­tive of the South African Col­lege Prin­ci­pals Or­gan­i­sa­tion which rep­re­sents prin­ci­pals of Tech­ni­cal and Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing (TVET) col­leges and their gover­nors coun­cil to dis­cuss prepa­ra­tions for the aca­demic year.

“I at­tempted to meet the South African Fur­ther Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Stu­dents As­so­ci­a­tion (Safetsa), rep­re­sent­ing TVET col­leges stu­dents. How­ever, they were un­able to meet me as they are en­gaged in a cam­paign to raise their is­sues. We have agreed to meet to­mor­row (Fri­day),” Nz­i­mande said af­ter the meet­ings.

He said the dis­cus­sions had made him feel con­fi­dent about the prospects for higher ed­u­ca­tion this year since there were sug­ges­tions that last year’s chal­lenges, in­clud­ing the is­sues of fees and stu­dent ac­cess, were be­ing ad­dressed sub­stan­tially.”

He ap­pealed to all stake­hold­ers to con­tinue work­ing to­gether to en­sure that the vi­o­lent protests of last year didn’t re­cur.

Nz­i­mande said in­sti­tu­tions of higher ed­u­ca­tion were also keen to know when they would be re­ceiv­ing funds from the gov­ern­ment.

“The pro­cesses for ap­ply­ing for the 2017 fee ad­just­ment grant, up to a cap of 8% was also dis­cussed, with my de­part­ment com­mit­ting to re­leas­ing a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of this grant to uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges in the first quar­ter of the year, to as­sist them with cash flow.”

“NSFAS (Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme has paid R1.3 bil­lion to our 26 pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties and TVET col­leges – an ad­vance pay­ment for reg­is­tra­tion fees for stu­dents from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds, so that they can be ad­mit­ted for their 2017 stud­ies.”

Nz­i­mande said he had not re­ceived any re­ports of vi­o­lence or in­tim­i­da­tion, in­clud­ing any harm to peo­ple or de­struc­tion of any prop­erty at cam­puses so far this year.

“We re­cently re­ceived a list of griev­ances from the body rep­re­sent­ing TVET stu­dents, Safestsa. There is noth­ing in the mem­o­ran­dum from Safetsa that can­not be re­solved with a bit of good­will and de­ter­mi­na­tion by the TVET col­leges, of course sup­ported by the De­part­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing,” said the min­is­ter.

“For ex­am­ple, I an­nounced last year that all stu­dents who come from house­holds with a com­bined in­come of less than R600 000 per an­num would be given sub­sidy fund­ing to cover this year’s fee in­creases, of up to 8%. This is one ex­am­ple of the is­sues Safetsa raised.” – ANA

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