MINISTER of Higher Education and Training (DHET) Blade Nzimande has reiterated government’s commitment to finding long-term solutions to the education crisis that has gripped South Africa.
During his visit to Umgungundlovu Tvet College, Midlands campus on Monday where he was locked in a three-hour, closed-door meeting with college management, students and worker leadership, Nzimande assured NSFAS-funded students who owe money they will be allowed to register.
“The immediate short-term demand is on how to resolve 2017 student fees. There is no owing NSFAS student who will not go back to a college or university, government will cover those costs,” he said.
Nzimande said the visit to Pietermaritzburg was part of his oversight mandate on higher education institutions to ensure a seamless start of the academic year. “It is part of my oversight mandate as the minister to visit selected institutions at this time of the year, just to come and check how things are going overall. I monitor how registration is going, the challenges facing the institutions in terms of their own administrative arrangements, issue on NSFAS and what is the nature of all those issues.”
“We are aware that Tvet colleges have a perpetual challenge of results as well as certificates that should come out on time, which we agree with as the department. You can’t pass and then not get a certificate. We have our own challenges in government in this regard, which we are attending to ensure we address this problem once and for all.”
Addressing students’ violent protests, he said the department was sitting at close to R1 billion worth of damage of university property.
Referring to the arrest of Bongani Khanyile, the last remaining #FeesMustFall protester still behind bars, Nzimande said he cannot assist in that regard.
“That’s the responsibility of the court, as a minister there’s very little, if anything at all, that I do to assist him. It’s not nice seeing students being arrested, but if they are being charged for serious crimes they must face the music.
“We have kids redirecting money that we could be using to assist poor students now having to rebuild buildings that we already have. If you are facing charges of that nature, it’s before the court and the court must decide. There is nothing I can do.”
Should the violent student protests erupt again, Nzimande said they have increased security at all institutions of higher learning.
“We must ensure that when there are protests public property doesn’t get damaged, so [we] have put security measures in place, which is not a nice thing. We have to do it because if we don’t, we’ll continue to have destructions with student protests,” he said.
Umgungundlovu Tvet College SRC president Noluthando Hlubi said as student leadership they are happy with the outcome of the meeting.
“The meeting with the minister was very progressive it helped us as the SRC to raise some of the issues we are facing as an institution.
“The agreement we reached was that all students will receive their certificates dating back to 2012 at the end of March. Another challenge was that NSFAS doesn’t pay us monthly, we get told government doesn’t have money, the minister also promised to address that issue,” she said.Source: News24
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