The Struggle for free education continues

The Struggle for free education continues

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Following the call by the South African Union of Students (Sau) for a national shutdown, students across the country took to street on Monday fighting for the right to free education in
institutions of higher learning without restrictions.

The student demands for the 2021 academic year and the national shutdown of all the 26 universities include; financial clearance and clearance of historical debts for all students to ensure smooth registration, immediate provision of post-graduate funding which is a crisis in the country, allocation of NSFAS funding for first time entering students and demand for student allowances to be provided in March, and free registration for all as majority of students have been financially excluded.

Responding to the outlined demands, Minister of Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Blade Nzimande stated that the department is not in a financial position to be able to support institutions to clear all students debt of fee-paying students. “We are aware of that there are many students whose families struggle to keep up with fee payments, and indeed many families have been negatively affected by Covid-19 pandemic. However, given difficult fiscal situation, all government departments, including Department of Higher Education and Training have been subject to budget reductions in 2020 and 2021.”

While Vice-Chancellors of the 26 public South African Universities have met to discuss the matter. Prof. Ahmed Bawa, CEO of Universities South Africa is in line with Blade Nzimande as he says that the cancelling of historical debts is way impossible because that will cripple universities since they cannot afford it. He also mentioned that this is big challenge since the expense and debts are high and as such they cannot be easily cancelled.

Students are vowing to render academic institutions ungovernable until their demands are met. And, they are urging all other universities to follow in the steps of the University of Cape Town as it has effectively lifted the student registration fee block and has committed R30 million to allow students who were financially excluded to register for the 2021 academic year regardless of their 2020 historic debt.

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