Blade has high hopes for academic year
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