UNISA students are ready to shut all campuses of the university down and render them ungovernable if the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, does not reverse Minister of Higher Education Dr Blade Nzimande’s decision to limit first-time students by 20 000 this year.
President of the School Governing Body Wadzanai Mazhetese and chairperson of the EFF Student Command Thabo Maake vowed that Unisa will not proceed with the academic year if the judgment reserved by the court turns out to be unacceptable to them.
EFF students, adorned in their red gear last week, protested outside the high court in Madiba Street and marched along the street, bringing traffic to a standstill, under the watchful eye of a police nyala deployed to monitor the situation while the application was being heard.
Nzimande’s decision came as a measure to help deal with the amount of funding needed from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme, but it was seen as anti-revolutionary by students.
Maake said students were also upset that Nzimande also took a decision to defund some qualifications like education and nursing, which frustrates students because those students also need the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
He said other bursaries available for such students could not cope with the high number of students needing help.
“We are also fighting Unisa’s decision to usher in a super semester that requires students to register both semesters now and then pay a higher registration fee. This will have complications because students will need a lot of leave to write all exams at the end of both semesters, and it will just be too much and there will not be enough time to study,” said Maake.
Unisa has, however, stated that a lot of modules will have more assignments and no need to write exams at the end of the academic calendar. Regarding the trimming of students, it said the decision was made by the minister and is now in the hands of the court.
Spokesperson for the Department of Higher Education, Science and Technology Ishmael Mnisi said the department was defending its decision in court and would wait for the outcome of the court.
Meanwhile, former public protector Thuli Madonsela has pleaded with President Cyril Ramaphosa and higher education minister Blade Nzimande to withdraw the order that the University of SA (Unisa) should reduce its number of first-time students this year by 20,000.
Madonsela’s plea comes after Nzimande, last month ordered Unisa to reduce its intake of first-time students, saying it had over-enrolled by about 20,000 last year.
Madonsela said the move to deregister students could lead to disruptions by “angry students”.
“Please withdraw the order to Unisa to deregister 20,000 first-year students this year. As unemployment and poverty explode, we do not want angry young people seething over stolen dreams,” said Madonsela.