The Department of Higher Education says the call for a national shutdown of universities by the South African Union of Students (SAUS) is “unfortunate.”
The union said it was forced into action after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande failed to respond adequately to a list of demands sent to him on issues relating to student funding, accommodation, and safety.
The Department said there was no need to disrupt the 2020 academic year because Nzimande had already responded to the union.
“On the response given by the minister, we’re not aware what they’re unhappy about at the moment. It will be proven that they had engaged with us,” departmental spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said.
Mnisi added that the ministry had done its best to accommodate the union.
In Nzimande’s letter to SAUS, the minister responded point-for-point to the concerns raised by the union, and added, “I hope that the channels of engagement between SRCs, universities and the department are sufficiently open to allow for continued engagement on medium, and longer-term issues as well as any urgent matters.”
SAUS said it held talks with 21 of the 26 public universities of which some students from 18 institutions have agreed to join the shutdown.