Students call for halt to classes

The Rhodes University Student Representative Council (SRC) has today called for the suspension of academic activities at the institution following students' unhappiness with government's announcement of an eight percent fee increase.

The SRC issued a statement this afternoon, 20 September stating that this is to allow for students to mobilise for a student meeting that would take place at the Drostdy Lawn this evening.

Earlier today students met with SRC President Mlondolozi Gift Sandi at the Steve Biko Building. They voiced their dissatisfaction with the announcement made by Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande on universities' tuition fee adjustments for 2017.

Yesterday, Monday 19 September, Nzimande announced Nzimande announced a maximum 8 percent fee increase for next year and the government's commitment to assisting students who come from poor and working class families and those who come from mid-level income families.

Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor (VC) Dr Sizwe Mabizela yesterday issued a statement welcoming Nzimande's statement.
The Rhodes University SRC today issued a statement explaining that what they needed from government was a clear commitment as to when and how free education will be implemented.

"The SRC has called for a suspension of the academic project as to allow mobilisation. A mass student body meeting will be held today at the Drostdy Lawn.

"After this meeting there will be residence visits that starts immediately and continuing into tomorrow," read the statement.
Nzimande said universities would determine their own fee increases for 2017, but that this should not exceed 8 percent.

However, there would be no fee increase for students who qualify for National Student Financial Scheme (NSFAS) as well as children of poor, working- and middle-class families whose household income was up to ***R600 000 a year.

Mabizela, in his statement, said the assistance by government would bring much-needed relief to students who come from poor and working class families.

He said it is important that those students who can afford to pay their fees do so. 
Mabizela said the Rhodes University Council would consider the Minister's recommendations during the preparation and approval of the university budget for 2017.

"Rhodes University notes and welcomes the Minister's recommendations regarding university tuition fee adjustments for 2017. We particularly welcome Government's commitment to assist students who come from poor and working class families and those who come from mid-level income families," Mabizela said. 

"We note with concern that the chronic underfunding of our higher education system over many years has placed it in jeopardy. 
"Over the past few months our public universities have had heightened anxiety on the approach that would need to be adopted on 2017 tuition fee adjustments to safeguard the sustainability of these universities. 

"We urge all role players in higher education, including students, academic and support staff, management, the private sector and the Government to bring together their collective wisdom to help South Africa find affordable and sustainable funding mechanisms for our public higher education system." 

He said there is an urgent need to produce an intermediate and medium-term funding plan, with timeliness, and framed within the overall objective of reducing the burden of university tuition fees on students and parents while ensuring the financial sustainability of South African universities. 

Mabizela said such a plan would provide direction and certainty regarding the future of the public higher education system. He said Rhodes University remains committed to working with the government and all other role players in ensuring that it continues to offer quality education to students within a financially sustainable framework, while ensuring that academically deserving students are not excluded for financial reasons.

In Port Elizabeth, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University's (NMMU) Acting Vice-Chancellor Dr Sibongile Muthwa said in a statement published on their website today they do not believe that resuming university operations for the next two days will be a viable option.

"Management’s attempts at engaging with students today (Tuesday 20 August) have proven inconclusive. All academic activities are therefore suspended for two days, Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 September 2016.

"This will allow management to actively engage with students, especially around the fees statement released by Government," said Muthwa.

Meanwhile, Walter Sisulu University also issued a statement yesterday Monday 19 September saying that it has resolved to start looking at the options it has on the table.

"The University will, as is customary, be engaging with relevant stakeholders and thereafter present a consolidated recommendation to University Council for approval at their November meeting. 

"The adjusting of fees is a Council responsibility and decisions and pronouncements on this rest solely on Council’s shoulders. 

"WSU has already started looking at 2017 expenses, information that will help determine the appropriate fee rate that would allow the University to function, effectively and without hindrances," read the statement.

(Amount corrected - R600 000)

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