Higher Education Minister Naledi Pandor says contrary to misleading reports, her meeting with the South African Union of Students (SAUS) was fruitful and that there are engagements to find solutions to challenges that are faced by students.
Pandor said this when she participated in a debate on the State of the Nation Address in the National Assembly on Tuesday.
This comes after SAUS called for a shutdown of the country’s universities last week until financial assistance concerns, among others, were addressed.
This included calls by the union for historic debt to be wiped, for adequate student accommodation and for the facilitation of more students at universities, among others.
“I cannot argue against the justified correctness of issues they have raised, but it is imperative that we do not allow any person to hijack legitimate protest for political mischief.
“I am pleased that students and management are talking and working together to address the obstacles confronted by students. We can always find solutions.
“Contrary to misleading reports, the Saturday meeting with SAUS was very constructive. There are issues we still need to solve, but there are also areas in which much progress is being made,” she said.
Prior to this, Pandor used the first few lines of her debate to express her deepest condolences to the family of Durban University of Technology student Mlungisi Madonsela, who was fatally shot during a protest.
“I urge all higher education institutions to make every effort available to find solutions to ongoing concerns. I will do all that is possible to assist,” she said.
Pandor said, meanwhile, that she has directed the NSFAS Administrator Dr Randall Carolissen to prioritise all outstanding appeals and assessments.
She said for the first time ever, student registration and NSFAS eligibility is working in tandem, and many students have already received allowances.
“This is truly historic, given the delays in paying allowances in the past, and the extreme delays and problems of the last two years in particular.”
She said improvements were also evident at technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.
Pandor also said that placing NSFAS under administration was a positive move and while there are many challenges remaining, NSFAS is on the right track.
“Prior to the December 2017 announcement on free education for poor and working class students, funding of the system had not kept up with enrolments, university fees had become increasingly unaffordable, especially at the large urban universities that have high costs.
“Insufficient funding to support all NSFAS students under the previous rules resulted in a capping of the awards. NSFAS students at high cost universities were not fully funded at the actual cost of study at their institutions, and were often unable to pay for food and accommodation.
“That situation has now changed with our new full cost of subsidy NSFAS bursary, a scheme of targeted free education for the poor and working class.
“The recent appointment of an administrator at NSFAS has vastly improved the performance of this important institution,” she said. – SAnews.gov.za