‘Just a public relations exercise’
“A PUBLIC relations exercise,” was how political analyst Liepollo Lebohang Pheko labelled Higher Education Minster Blade Nzimande’s announcement yesterday that universities could determine their own fee increases for next year.
The minister also recommended that universities should not raise fees by more than 8%.
“He has, in effect, pushed the matter aside and deferred it to the universities,” Pheko said. This left the universities in a “very difficult situation”, because they had to meet populist sentiments as well as their own “very real, very tangible” challenges.
“It is slightly unfair. He has created the impression that he has put a cap on fee increases, and if there is an increase, it is not his doing,” Pheko said. “We need more leadership than that, and more accountability.”
As far as an 8% increase is concerned, Pheko said she would have to crunch the numbers to determine whether or not it was fair. But, she pointed out, 8% meant different things in different institutions.
“It may go further in one institution than in another, and may end up disadvantaging some institutions,” she said.
While Nzimande’s announcement was met with unrest at some universities across the country, in Kwa-Zulu-Natal the general mood was one of uncertainty.
UKZN Pietermaritzburg students planned a march to the legislature today demanding free education. UKZN’s central SRC president, Senzo Ngidi, was in a university council sitting for much of yesterday.
“We still need time to apply our minds to the statement (Nzimande’s) and understand the context,” he said.
UKZN spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the council had not yet had a chance to deliberate on the issue. It would do so at a special sitting on October 14.
Seshoka said, however, that UKZN welcomed the minister’s announcement.
Mqondisi Duma, the provincial secretary of the South African Students Congress, said the body’s call was unchanged.
“We want free, and quality, education,” he said.
“And we are confident that the government of the ANC can deliver.”