South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande says the department and universities have reached a consensus to ensure fee increases for the 2021 academic year are kept within reasonable limits.
In response to demands listed by South African Union of Students (SAUS) which includes a 0% fee increase for the 2021 academic year, Nzimande said institutions rely on students’ fees for their core operating income.
Nzimande stated that additional funding is not available from government to support a 0% fee increase.
“Fee consultations take place at institutional level. In addition, student leaders are represented on university councils, where budgeting and fee decisions are taken.
“Institutions have to remain financially sustainable in order to meet their operational commitments and their academic responsibilities,” Nzimande explained.
Nzimande said students who have challenges with connectivity should be able to return to campuses, where they are able to access the relevant connectivity and support from institutions.
However, the Minister emphasised that individual institutions must manage these processes in accordance with their own resources and strategies, and the ability to provide a safe learning environment for the return of students and staff, given the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I will be releasing directions to support and guide institutions in managing the return of students and the start of the 2021 academic year,” Nzimande said.
Nzimande appealed that the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is working hard to finalise appeals, so that students are not prevented from registering in time to start the 2021 academic year.
The Minister appealed to students to continue engaging with the management teams of their various institutions using the available communication structures.
The University SRC, the South African Union of Students (SAUS), and the South African Students Congress (SASCO) had insisted on mobilising for a nationwide shutdown of all higher education institutions from today if issues were not resolved. The South African Students Congress (Sasco) said it will render every campus in the country ungovernable until the money that has been defunded from higher education is returned.
Students at Wits University have been protesting for the past three weeks. According to Shirona Patel, the university’s spokesperson, at least 1 200 students are in need of financial assistance in order to get registered for the academic session.
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