Destruction of university property runs into millions

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Pretoria – Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande has condemned the destruction of university property, which has run into millions of rands.

“We are now over R600 million [in] destruction… We are chasing R1 billion in property that has been destroyed over the last year and that we cannot afford (sic),” Minister Nzimande said.

Minister Nzimande said government would have to pay for the destruction of property at universities, which means funds that could help the poor and the working would have to be diverted to rebuild the infrastructure.

Recently the Minister announced that universities will individually decide on the fee increases for the 2017 academic year.

This followed the Council on Higher Education (CHE) report for 2017 fee adjustments, as well as the Minister’s ongoing consultations with key stakeholders. The recommendation, however, is that fee adjustments should not go above 8%.

The increase will not apply to the children of all poor, working and middle class families with a household income of up to R600 000 per annum.

Despite the announcement, students have continued with their call for free education at institutions of higher learning.

On Tuesday, Minister Nzimande addressed the media in Pretoria, following a meeting with the interim National Board of Convocations and Alumni.

The board requested a meeting to brief the Minister about the initiatives they will be undertaking in universities and among others, what role they can play in the current challenges facing universities.

He said the meeting with the board urged university management and student leaders to approach the fees discussion with an open mind.

“Convocations and alumni associations must encourage past National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) recipients to make payments on their loans so as to contribute towards funding of needy and deserving students.

“The private sector must also play a more meaningful role in higher education such as building infrastructure and providing funding to cover the shortfall,” Minister Nzimande said.

The board also agreed that convocations and alumni should play a leading role in fundraising in order to build and maintain university infrastructure for generations to come.

The meeting further resolved that the board, through its structures in all universities, will work with student representatives to end the current wave of violent protests.

Minister Nzimande has urged universities to protect lives, saying that if the situation at universities gets out of control, universities should close.

The President of University of Johannesburg Convocation President and interim board member, Mbali Mkhonto, said the board will play a meaningful role in the education sector.

Mkhonto encouraged students to allow the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training to do its work.

“People must realise that certain things take time. There is a process that must be followed,” Mkhonto said. –