Reitumetse Makwea

By Reitumetse Makwea

Journalist


‘Varsities must come up with solution to annual protests’

The annual student fee protests desperately needs a unified voice from institutions of higher learning to put an end to an unjust system, says an expert.


Since 2015 students from various institutions have protested against tuition increases, financial exclusions, historic debt and now the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (Nsfas) residence cap of R45 000. Organisations such as Amnesty International South Africa, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and African Transformation Movement have rallied behind the students calling for lasting solutions for what have become annual protests. Following the University of the Witwatersrand’s student protest last week, political analyst Dr Levy Ndou said there was a clear missing link, especially for students whose parents were civil servants and did not qualify for financial…

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Since 2015 students from various institutions have protested against tuition increases, financial exclusions, historic debt and now the National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (Nsfas) residence cap of R45 000.

Organisations such as Amnesty International South Africa, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and African Transformation Movement have rallied behind the students calling for lasting solutions for what have become annual protests.

Following the University of the Witwatersrand’s student protest last week, political analyst Dr Levy Ndou said there was a clear missing link, especially for students whose parents were civil servants and did not qualify for financial aid schemes.

“If the student’s parent is a teacher, nurse, police and so on, they do not qualify for the Nsfas but the problem is they also cannot afford [to pay],” he said.

“That is something government should take into consideration – but also most universities are expensive, which makes it difficult for the scheme to properly cover students.”

“Universities should convince Nsfas to pop out more money to cover students; they need to communicate on behalf of the students because this has become an annual problem.”

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Becoming a racial issue

Student activist Nonhlanhla Mthembu said this was slowly becoming a racial issue, which targeted black youth, “eventually forcing them out of so-called white spaces”.

“When former president Jacob Zuma left office he promised free education.

“That promise meant every black child who ever dreamt of changing their life situation would have the opportunity,” she said.

“When we cry free education today, we are not just crying for us. It means education must be accessible to individuals from all financial backgrounds.

“Why is it that because of the colour of my skin I cannot choose which university I want to go to?

“The ANC made that promise and the ANC must account.”

The challenge of free education

However, Ndou said the challenge of free education as promised by Zuma was the context, timing and nature in which the promise was made.

Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) president Aphiwe Mnyamana said Wits had the money to accommodate students who had debts under R150 000.

“As students, we are frustrated, because as members of council we know the university has money,” he said.

“The university has done this before.

“During the years of Adam Habib, the university was able to say students who are owing less than R120 000 can register.

“So, it is something that is feasible and not far-fetched. As the SRC, we will continue to fight for that cause.”

Political analyst Xolani Dube said it was no longer up to the ANC or President Cyril Ramaphosa, “as the people of SA need to stop scapegoating”.

“This is about our failures as South Africans to take our destiny and direct it the way we want. Blaming the ANC, Ramaphosa or Zuma is the easiest way out,” Dube said.

“What are we doing to change our conditions and to fulfil our historical quest of developing SA to the level of other nations? That cannot be done by a political party or individual.

“Once people expect that, they are scapegoating and shying away from their own responsibility.”

VIDEO: Moment Wits protest intensified

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