Zuma's visit raised students' hopes

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

By Acting Presidential Spokesperson Harold Maloka

President Jacob Zuma was encouraged by the response of students he met at TUT (Tshwane University of Technology). He said it was indicative of the message that education as the apex priority for the country has been received far and wide.

"We have discovered a positive problem at TUT - of an oversupply of students leading to inadequate accommodation. We are happy that young people are hungry for education in our country in this manner and we are challenged as government to respond to this challenge positively".

This is how President Jacob Zuma summed up the highly successful Siyahlola visit to Soshanguve and Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).

On the morning of Tuesday, 23 June 2015 TUT was abuzz with activity, with students making their way to different venues in anticipation of the arrival of President Zuma.

Many wanted to catch a glimpse, shake hands or take “selfies” with the President, while some were adamant and upbeat that the President visit would help address their plight.

President Zuma visited the university following complaints that there was scarcity and lack of accommodation on campus to accommodate students. Students further raised security concerns following the stabbing to death of a student and burning of 18 cars during a protest last year.

They also raised the challenge of funding, a challenged faced by many students and potential students across the country.

In response to the students concerns, the President undertook the Siyahlola Monitoring Visit to see for himself and hear what the challenges were and how government could help to create a conducive environment for learning.

There was jubilation and excitement, a rousing welcome from the university community which included management, lectures and students. Cellphones were out to capture the historic visit and momentous occasion which held the hope and aspirations of students.

However, it was disappointing to notice limited media coverage of the positive story that unfolded throughout the day at TUT.

The visit began with a visit to residences to observe the living conditions of students at the north campus. Through the President’s intervention, the female residences were refurbished including bathrooms that were causes for concern due to lack of privacy and dignity. The female students attested to the interventions and were grateful to the government.

Students raised issues ranging from funding for meals provided by National Students Financial Assistance Scheme (NSFAS) which they said was inadequate. They said they were required to remove all their belonging when going on holiday which causes financial strain to their families. The university undertook to look into the matter.

Some said they are happy to be at the university and look forward to completing their studies and entering the job market. They also said that there was now security at residences which made them feel safe.

The President and his entourage of Deputy Ministers who form the Presidential Youth Working Group Task Team led by Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela proceeded to Bethesda Church in the community which provides accommodation for 70 students. The students are living under dire conditions, with one of the church pastors being the caretaker. The Departments of Higher Education and Social Development will continue to assess the situation and find solutions to the plight of the students.

The President also visited the Botho Socio-Psychology Centre, a youth skills development centre which has been adopted by the university and run from Thulasizwe Primary School.

The President also addressed students and community members at the university hall and announced interventions by government since the complaints had been brought to the attention of his office.

The visit was a resounding success in many ways; key interventions and progress were observed and announced.

Government departments and institutions have been hard at work to responding to complaints by students and assisting them to create a conducive environment for learning.

The Department of Labour is registering unemployed youth on its database and will provide job placement assistance through Employment Services Practitioners in the area. In addition. It will also explore organising sessions for job seekers with career councillors for advice on preparing CVs and preparing for interviews.

The South African Police Service has also initiated an internship programme for 15 students.

The positive story of the visit, might have been missed in the reporting by the media, it brought hope for the young people of TUT who want a better life.

 

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