THE South African Union of Students (SAUS) has called for a national shutdown of all higher education institutions following the submission of student demands to the minister of higher education Dr Blade Nzimande during the weekend.
Student protests have been happening in most parts of the country, starting at Wits University and University of Johannesburg.
This is part of the student’s ongoing protest over financial exclusion.
Meanwhile, the South African Students Congress (SASCO) and the EFF Student Command (EFFSC) have also joined calls for a national shutdown of all universities.
SAUS secretary general, Lwandile Mtsolo, said the students’ meeting with the minister at the weekend resolved to call for a national shutdown of all the 26 universities from Monday.
All 26 University SRCs have supported this decision unanimously and the shutdown will continue until our demands are met, said Mtsolo.
The SAUS meeting, which included all student representative councils in the country, was also attended by representatives from National Students Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Universities South Africa, as well as Deputy Minister of Higher education, Buti Manamela.
Mtsolo said the austerity measures announced by the Finance Minister Tito Mboweni to cut budgets and reduce university subsidies for higher education are a sign of uncaring government.
“We thus unambiguously and vehemently reject the neo-liberal budget that seeks to defund NSFAS thereby putting the future of many students in jeopardy. Austerity must fall,” said Mtsolo.
The union also condemned the brutality and violence by the South African Police Services (SAPS), which led to a killing of one civilian during protests against financial exclusion.
SAUS is demanding financial clearance and the clearance of historical debts for all students to ensure their smooth registration for the academic year.
It wants justice for the family of a person who was killed by police during protests in Wits University, and an end to police brutality. Other demands include immediate provision for post-graduate funding and allocation of National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding for first time or new students. NSFAS is a government-run scheme that provides financial aid to poor undergraduate students.
SAUS also demanded zero percent fee increase for the 2021 academic year and sought free, quality, decolonised education for the poor and the working class.
It said the Student Representative Council (SRC) leaders are in support of the decision for the national shutdown of universities, and has urged all students across the country to join in the fight against financial exclusion. SRCs are the highest decision-making student body in universities.
In a separate statement, Senior Executive Team (SET) from the Wits University said they have met with the SRC and they will deliberate their demands with the members of the council and other stakeholders before engaging with the SRC on Monday afternoon.
It also confirmed that University South Africa (USAF) will be meeting with Vice Chancellors of 26 public universities on Monday to discuss some of these issues. The outcome of the meeting will be announced to various constituencies.
- Inside Education. Additional reporting by WION.