26 January 2014
The South African Students Congress is very angry at the manner in which tertiary intuitions - in collusion with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme - are blocking access for children of workers and the poor of this land. From the 6th of January 2014, our members throughout the country in both universities and FET colleges, returned to campuses to begin the work of the Right To Learn Campaign. SASCO has from its inception believed that education is a right for all humanity and therefore central to its program is the struggle for universal access to education. The theme for our Right To Learn Campaign this year is, Broadening Access to Tertiary Education and Training, making SASCO the First Friend on Campus. The main objectives of our RTLC is to ensure access for the working class and poor, fight financial and academic exclusions, and ensure a smooth registration experience for all students in our institutions of higher learning and training.
Applications and No Walk-in Policy, CACH
The 2014 academic year has seen far much great application of student wanting access to higher education and further education and training, as a results of improved matric pass rate, most of these students applied in time into our universities and colleges, and there is a considerable number of student who did not apply on time, and are doing their level best to access the system.
Unfortunately universities such as the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the University of Johannesburg and many others have introduced a new policy of No-Walk in for applicants in the 2014 academic year, and only allowed student to apply online on programs that still have space open, which is an exclusion of a special type, since the majority of the poor and working class children might not have access to such a system, let alone understand it.
This has resulted into the majority of those filling the space been children of the middle class and the rich, who can simply access the system from the comfort of their homes and posses the required ICT skill to make use of the online registrations methods. The department of higher education and training has introduced a Central Application Clearing House, which is the method of checking available space in various institutions and making application on behalf of students, the limitation of this program is that is not well understood and its marketing is generally poor and start late in the year.
We have met the department on two occasions to try deal with such limitations, and engaged on measures to improve on marketing and communication of the CACH system, part of the engagements we had with the minister was our demand for more funding of poor students to access our universities and colleges, the fact that NSFAS has been unable to cover the majority of university students as it does with FETs, is a worrying fact, we will continue our efforts’ in calling and fighting for more funding for the poor till free education is realized, and we have dealt away with the demon of financial exclusions in higher education and training.
National Financial Student Aid Scheme (NSFAS) crisis
The financial scheme continues to cater for few students and exclude majority of those who are poor, even if they meet the requirement of been academically deserving and financially needy, such mean spaces that were suppose to be filled by poor students in universities will be taken by students who can afford. Even though there has been significant increase of the budget of NSFAS, this has been met with ever increasing fees and a growing demand for funding.
NSFAS has failed to pay many universities their full allocation for 2013 and therefore we have a crisis of many NSFAS students have outstanding fees and unable to register for 2014. Even though these students meet the requirements for funding and are academically deserving they are financially excluded. In other institutions NSFAS has made a commitment to pay or pay a portion of the historic debt, but universities are refusing to register these students.
NSFAS allocation for 2014 has not increased and as such many deserving returning and first year students are unable to register. Many students who qualified for funding have been given regret letters by universities due to insufficient funding. This has resulted in the disenfranchisement of the working class and poor students and their condemnation to unemployment and poverty. This also comes against the steep increase of bachelor passes of the Matric 2013 class, particularly because a significant number of these students who performed well are coming from disadvantaged schools. We are also concerned that universities are refusing students to allow student to be registered through NSFAS, which is against the national policy framework of the scheme. This we view as a deliberate act to exclude poor black students from higher education. We are more concerned that some universities like the University of Johannesburg have billions in reserves yet they exclude academically deserving student and fold their arms shifting the blame only to NSFAS.
SASCO is particularly angered by FET college administrators refusing students to register through the ZERO fee registration policy of NSFAS. This goes against the advances being made to provide 100% bursaries for deserving FET students. We warn colleges to desist from this and to follow the national policy and not act like islands within a single training system. We are also concerned with the capping of NSFAS by FETs which results in the reduction of students who benefit. We are aware of some of the corrupt practices that happen in our FETs in the allocation of the scheme, we call on our structures to be vigilant and expose those elements.
SASCO would like to take this opportunity to encourage students to embark on mass action in order to ensure that their demands are met. This is not a time to lock ourselves in boardrooms and have permanent meetings that do not resolve the plight of our students. We encourage those institutions that are already on strike such as Durban University of Technology (DUT), Vaal University of Technology (VUT), Cape Penninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and Mangosuthi University of Technology (MUT) to continue with their mass actions and further accelerate these strikes so that they are felt by the echelons of power in our universities and in the Department of Higher Education and Training. We have noted the various cases of victimization against student leaders for fighting against the exclusion of poor students as a result of the poor and unguided funding of NSFAS. This has strengthened our resolve to call for the dismissal of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Limpopo, Professor Mogalong, who continues to victimize SASCO activist in a bid to kill the political culture and student activism on campus. We are worried that the likes of VUT are also following this dangerous approach. We urge universities to work with student leaders to resolve the challenges in our institutions.
Many other institutions are facing problems and conditions dictate that they go on strike this week and these are the University of Johannesburg (UJ), University of Limpopo, University of Zululand (UNIZULU), University of Kwa-Zulu Natal (UKZN), Walter Sisulu University (WSU), Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and University of Fort Hare (UFH). This does not mean that there are no challenges in various other institutions that we have not mentioned. It is very shocking and extremely disturbing that the institutions that are seriously confronted with these problems are the previously black institutions where children of the workers and the poor study. It is therefore an attack on the poor and it ought to be responded to with serious mass action.
In the principle of unity and the reality that these challenges confront all of us in universities and colleges; SASCO is engaged in preparations for a General Student Strike in the entire tertiary landscape on NSFAS and other issues of access to universities and colleges. In as much as we would still want to meet with the CEO of NSFAS, we believe that our structures had enough meetings with him, which in most, if not all, cases have not beard any fruitful results. The General Student Strike will happen in all university and college campuses but it will also be coupled with a number of protests to the Department of Higher Education and Training in Pretoria and the NSFAS Offices in Cape Town. We are hoping though that the problems of access in our institutions will be resolved before we get to this point.
We call on our government to urgently increase the NSFAS allocation to deal with this deepening crisis and to save the children of the working class and poor form exclusions. SASCO also makes a call to all our universities to exercise restraint and not exclude deserving students at the slightness provocation.
Issued by the NEC of SASCO
Ntuthuko Makhombothi (President) : 071 875 2209
Secretary General (Luzuko Buku) : 071 879 3258