Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande will on Tuesday convene a meeting with higher education stakeholders to discuss and come up with a common framework and approach to the university fee increases for 2016.
Addressing the media in Pretoria, on Monday, on the current situation at various South African universities, Minister Nzimande emphasised that an approach must be developed in order to come up with a dispensation that takes into account the difficult circumstances facing especially students who come from poor families, as well as the financial pressures facing the system.
“Considering the current economic challenges and fiscal constraints facing the country, the department urges all university councils and management to exercise greater caution and sensitivity in the process of determining fee increases in their institutions.
“It is imperative that they consult all relevant key stakeholders in order to minimise the detrimental impact on poor students. Students need to be brought on board for frank and honest discussions so as to ensure that there is stability in our institutions,” said Minister Nzimande.
The meeting is to be held in Cape Town, on Tuesday, and is expected to be attended by representatives of vice chancellors, university council chairs, students and workers.
This follows protests at various institutions of higher learning across the country in the past few days over fee increases for next year.
Minister Nzimande urged all stakeholders at institutional level to try and find common ground through negotiations first and for management to take a lead in this regard.
He challenged the management of universities to open up legitimate channels for discussions and dialogue and not allow matters to deteriorate, often due to lack of understanding and knowledge of the situation and spurred by poor communication.
The Minister further urged students to give the necessary space for these negotiations to take place so matters can be resolved amicably.
Government remains committed to funding poor students in higher education in the context of a constrained fiscal climate, he said.
Funding for poor academically capable students, disbursed through the National Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), has increased from R441 million in 2007 to R9.5 billion in 2015.
However, Minister Nzimande acknowledged that while funding has increased considerably, it is clearly still insufficient to support all poor and academically deserving students.
Processes of improving the disbursement of funds and concerted efforts to root out fraud, as well as sourcing additional funding to support students are currently being implemented.
The Minister challenged business to also come on board. – SAnews.gov.za
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