Public Protector to meet Minister of Higher Education and Training over the plight of students

Acting Public Protector Adv. Kholeka Gcaleka will this evening meet virtually with the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mr. Blade Nzimande as part of a multi-pronged mediation effort aimed at finding lasting solutions to the challenges that have seen students declaring a shutdown of universities across the country.

Adv. Gcaleka, who is joined today by the provincial representative of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) Mr. Victor Mavhidula at the University of Venda in Thohoyandou, Limpopo where they are engaging management, student leadership and the campus office of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) as part of a series of such engagements scheduled for the next five weeks, has also written to the NSFAS Chief Executive Officer Mr. Andile Nongogo to secure an urgent audience with him.

In a joint-effort with the SAHRC, the Public Protector South Africa (PPSA) hopes to help the parties find each other and resolve on lasting solutions aimed at curbing a recurrence of the violent scenes that have been seen at various institutions of higher learning over the years. The two institutions are also considering requesting the South African Union of Students and the South African Universities Vice Chancellors Association for meetings in the quest for a lasting solution in the best interest of the students.

“We see this volatility every single year. The question is where is the planning? How do we make sure that students are in lecture halls at the start of each academic year rather that see them pouring into the streets to protest for access to tertiary education? How do we curb the arrests and the brutality at the hands of the police? We need to find lasting solutions,” said Adv. Gcaleka.

Earlier Adv. Gcaleka met with University of Venda Vice Chancellor, Dr. Ndanduleni Bernard Nthambeleni, who informed her that the university’s 2020 academic activities have overlapped into 2021 due to challenges brought about by COVID-19. As a result, said Dr. Nthambeleni, students at the institutions are only completing their 2020 examinations this week on Thursday.

Dr. Nthambeleni said it was critical that examinations be concluded soon as that would unlock the 2021 academic year NSFAS funding. He explained that the institution began registering students for the current year at the beginning of the month. About half of the targeted 1800 were already registered.

The PPSA and the SAHRC will during the course do the day take presentations from university management, the Student Representatives Council and NSFAS before discussing issues specific to the institution.

Over the next weeks, Adv. Gcaleka will visit the Tshwane University of Technology campus in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga; Orbit TVET College in Rustenburg, North West; University of the Free State in Mangaung; King Sabata Dalindyebo TVET College in Mthatha, Eastern Cape; and Unisa in Pretoria.

Published Date: 
Tuesday, March 16, 2021