18 February 2015
As the South African Students Congress (SASCO), we note the wave of student protests across the country, with the current cases being the Tshwane University of Technology, University of KwaZulu Natal, Durban University of Technology, and the University of Fort Hare. These protests have been led by structures of the organisations as part of our Right to Learn Campaign (RTLC) aimed at fighting for access to institutions of higher learning and colleges.
Our assessment is that ever since the beginning of the year, at least 10 universities, out of the 23 have been on open students protests. We had earlier seen our structures protesting at the University of Witwatersrand (WITS), Walter Sisulu University (WSU), Vaal University of Technology (VUT), University of Pretoria (UP), Central University of Technology (CUT) and to some extent the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). We have seen a similar situation in Technical and Vocational Colleges(TVET) across the country; where most colleges have gone to protest or at the brink of such. The mass arrest of 55 students at the Motheo TVET is just an example of the various protests in colleges and the viciousness of institutional managers.
The protests are about three issues in the main; firstly there flood of insufficient fund responses that first applicants and returning students are getting from NSFAS. The clear case is that the funding for poor students is insufficient and there appears to be no efforts to expand the current 9, 5 billion rand which is too little.
The second and most sensitive problem that we are facing is that of student debt; both current and historical debt. Sadly about two years ago our government (DHET) took a decision to discontinue its historical debt programme, which was helping students to alleviate the burden of debt. The government has thus decided to sentence poor students into debt imprisonment. Institutions of higher learning are also playing their part in the problem as they continue to ensure that people with debt do not get registered. This is all in the interests of running the institutions as business enterprises, with profit being their main driver.
The third challenge that compounds this crisis is the lack of student accommodation, which relegates students into squatters. As if this is not enough, the security apparatus of the institutions is always unleashed on students who are squatting and these students get taken off-campus and they thus end up sleeping in the dangerous streets of our cities. Those who are lucky, manage to sneak in libraries and institutional offices where they spend their nights freezing in the floors of such facilities.
We are saying enough is enough; we will not continue witness and allow the young poor people of this land being blackmailed into the dungeons of poverty, squalor and destitution. We commit ourselves to fighting with everything at our disposal to ensure that the gates of these institutions are forcefully opened and the gatekeeping of managers is ferociously resisted.
We want to give an instruction to all our structures to intensify the various mass actions taking place and those institutions that have challenges should also join in these protests aimed at opening the doors of learning and culture for all. We plead with our comrades to not back-down but to continue to fight. The situation is currently at a point where the NEC will declare a general students strike on funding and accommodation, which will happen at both colleges and universities. This is not a treat but a commitment, for if we continue to see these challenges; we will be left with no other option.
We will also fight those ambitious institutional managers who want to exploit these genuine students grievances for their upward mobility. We must warn certain managers of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) that if they continue with their reckless and senseless acts we will expose them and ensure that they are isolated in the entirety of our higher education terrain.
For Free Education Now!
Issued by the NEC of SASCO
Ntuthuko Makhombothi (President) 071 875 2209
Luzuko Buku (Secretary General) 071 879 3258