The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) has narrowly avoided a shutdown after a students’ union meeting to discuss challenges confronting students on Saturday, reports Pretoria East Rekord.
South African Union of Students (SAUS) secretary-general Mpho Maake Mojapelo said the meeting took a resolution of a national shutdown “following the silence of the minister on issues facing students in our universities”.
“However,” said Mojapelo. “On Sunday morning, we received a seven-page response from the minister of higher education to the 15 demands made by SAUS.”
He said the response led the TUT leadership to make a decision to suspend the immediate shutdown “until they had interrogated the response and engaged management on issues that affect TUT”.
“We have shared the minister’s response with the SRC top 19 to engage the response and guide us afterwards.”
Minister of higher education, science and technology Blade Nzimande received a memorandum of demands from the SAUS, submitted on behalf of university SRCs of all 26 public universities.
Mojapelo said a few critical demands central to TUT were accommodation for all NSFAS-funded students.
“We are glad that the university through TUTEH has resolved this issue and all NSFAS students shall have accommodation in all TUT campuses.”
He said “many students” had been unable to register due to financial blocks.
“The minister has instructed universities to allow all NSFAS students to register and we believe the message will be communicated to all departments.”
Mojapelo said the university management communicated that they only needed students to sign the AOD so that the institution can claim money from NSFAS for debts caused by NSFAS’s failure to pay students fees.
“The honourable Nzimande has also highlighted and given out an instruction to all universities to adhere to the mandate he has issued out of saying that academic records must be issued out to the students so that they can look for employment and bursaries. Therefore, the university must adhere to the minister’s instruction and issue out the academic records to the students at large.”
Nzimande said the academic record issue was agreed upon in 2019, that all students, whether they owed the university or not, should be able to access their academic records, either for the purpose of pursuing employment opportunities or further study.
“This issue was discussed extensively with universities in 2019, and the department has engaged closely with universities where any complaints are received. However, no student should be prevented from accessing further study or employment by not having access to an academic record,” he said.
Nzimande was addressing issues in the memorandum.
- Some of his responses were that all students with historical debts must be allowed to register at any university and “we demand the department of higher education eradicate all historical debts”.
- Postgraduate students must be allowed to register while we continue pushing the department to provide postgraduate funding. This includes advanced diplomas. We demand that the National Research Fund (NRF) automatically provide funding to postgraduates who are previously NSFAS beneficiaries.
- The accreditation of students’ accommodation must be revised to ensure that all deserving students receive places to stay.
- Free registration for all vulnerable, poor and the missing middle students.
“All NSFAS-qualifying students are able to register at all 26 public universities without paying an upfront fee. This mechanism was in place in 2019. Students not qualifying for NSFAS have to make upfront payments to universities, according to the policies of the institutions.”
These were just some of the responses to the 15 demands made by SAUS.
The SRC requested that the university management suspend the online late application system with immediate effect.
“This as our brothers and sisters as prospective students are still closed outside by this dysfunctional system. We, therefore, urge the university to give departments to be responsible for filling the remaining spaces in their respective departments by allowing manual applications,” Mojapelo said.
“TUT management must note that we could be very arrogant and anarchic if we want. However, we will give them a chance until Tuesday to address university problems.
“We can’t allow students to stand in long queues and run around campuses without even a single cafeteria where they can eat when they are hungry. Some departments such as financial aid, registration and ARLC have become a serious problem in the university and we hope by Tuesday, all our internal concerns would be resolved. If not, students from all campuses will guide us.”
TUT spokesperson Willa de Ruyter said the university was still engaging student leaders to address the issues raised in order to avert any shutdown.