Government welcomes end of national student shutdown

Monday, February 3, 2020

Higher Education, Science and Technology Minister Blade Nzimande has welcomed the calling off of a national student shutdown with immediate effect.

This follows a meeting between the Minister and the South African Union of Students (SAUS) held on 31 January 2020.

Friday’s meeting discussed matters raised by the union. Common understanding and agreements were reached at the gathering.

The meeting agreed that indebted National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) students can register for the academic year, provided they sign an acknowledgement of debt form, and that they meet the 2020 academic year requirements for continued funding.

The Minister reiterated that all NSFAS qualifying students will be able to register for the academic year without making upfront payments.

There is also mechanisms in place, agreed to between NSFAS and institutions to assess financial eligibility of students who obtain a place and register for an approved programme, but have not applied to NSFAS, to be allowed to register, while the NSFAS assessment is underway.

Academic records and accommodation

In addition, Nzimande together with Universities South Africa (USAf) and the department also reiterated the agreement that all students, whether they owe the university or not, must be given their academic records, either for the purpose of pursuing employment opportunities or further study.

Regarding the issue of private accommodation accreditation, it was agreed that the relevant section of the 2020 Guidelines will be adapted and approved, to reflect the agreements made.

The issue of a differential incidental allowance for male and female students will be explored during 2020 for the 2021 academic year.

It was agreed that other issues will be dealt with through existing processes.

These include, amongst others, post-graduate funding, and in particular NSFAS recipients wishing to continue to postgraduate studies, student debt in the system for non-NSFAS qualifying students, funding for “missing middle” students.

Funding for post graduate students

From 7 February 2020, USAf and the department will determine the numbers of NSFAS students who have applied for postgraduate studies and currently registered, to understand the extent of demand in this area.

This process will explore additional funding for post graduate students within the registration process for the 2020 academic year.

Tackling campus safety

“The ongoing issues relating to campus safety and security were briefly discussed and there is commitment between USAf and the Minister to continue working on these critical issues. The Ministry will continue to engage student leadership in finding solutions and urged students to fully cooperate and allow the registration and orientation processes of universities to continue peacefully, so that the 2020 academic year can start without any further delays," said the department.

Nzimande urged all institutions to ensure that all matters agreed to are implemented without any further delays.

He also emphasised the need for all role players to work together to identify problems and seek to resolve them timeously. –