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National Shutdown Has Been Called Off – SA Union of Students

NYAKALLO TEFU|

THE South African Union of Students (SAUS) has called off the national university shutdown.

This follows a meeting with Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande. 

During the meeting which took place on 29 March, SAUS brought forward student demands to the minister.

The students’ union said following the meeting with the minister, there was a unanimous agreement from all university Student Representative Councils (SRCs) to call off the shutdown. 

The SAUS led a national shutdown of institutions of higher learning over three weeks ago

“The South African Union of Students (SAUS) has had a number of stakeholder engagements to advance the demands of students which were tabled to the Minister,” according to Lwandile Mtsolo, SAUS Secretary General. 

“After numerous failed attempts at resolving the issues at hand, SAUS sought other means of engagements to mediate with the challenges in the Higher Education sector,” added Mtsolo. 

Before the shutdown, which started on 15 March, more than 500 000 students were at risk of not being allowed to register due to outstanding debt. 

Mtsolo said other student engagements included meetings with the Public Protector, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training to find alternative intervention mechanisms.

Following engagements, these are some of the resolutions and agreements between students and the Department of Higher Education and Training:

  • Subsequent to the call for a national shutdown, the Minister reallocated ±R7 billion back to NSFAS following earlier budget cuts. As a result, FTENs are now able to register;
  •  643 000 students who were on the verge of financial exclusion managed to register in the last two weeks through online registration;
  • SAUS was able to raise a R5 million donation from one CETA to fund needy students who are studying towards Built Environment and Critical Skills qualifications;
  • The problem of the R13 billion student debt has been successfully placed on the national agenda again, and a process has been established to categorise the debt properly so that proposals for a solution can now be tabled to parliament;
  •  A meeting between DHET, USAF, SAUS, NSFAS & NRF has been secured for the 9th of April 2021 to finalize & resolve outstanding funding challenges and registration matters.

“The South African Union of Students appreciates the support from university SRCs in responding to the SAUS call for a national shutdown,” said Mtsolo. 

Even though developments have been made, Mtsolo is aware that not all problems have been solved through consultations with the Minister.

Free education continues to remain a long term issue that the union is still addressing with government. 

“In the meantime we said let those discussions proceed while students are back in class so that we don’t lose more academic time.”

SAUS has committed to following up on these students, as universities have been allowing students to register despite students having outstanding debt. 

“Whilst the shutdown has ended, our mandate from our constituency is to continue pursuing outstanding matters through alternative mechanisms. We want to assure our students that within no time we will be visiting those institutions that are facing more problems to ensure that no student is left behind.”

“As mandated by university SRCs we will be utilizing the processes and mechanisms that have been put in place by the Minister to ensure that we adequately address all outstanding matters.”

  • Inside Education 
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