SASCO and NMMU SRC sing different tunes over Tuesday's shutdown

AUGUST 23, 2016

As anxiety builds up about a possible fee increase for 2017, the South African Students’ Congress (SASCO) at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), in response to a call made by the Provincial Executive Committee of SASCO in the Eastern Cape, has called for a shutdown of all university campuses in the province in demand for free education on Tuesday. But the NMMU's Student Representative Council (SRC) is singing another tune.

"After serious consideration of the conditions specific to our own environment, [we] decided to follow the call and shut down NMMU as of the 23rd August 2016 until further notice," the ANC-aligned student body said in a statement.

"We do this not out of hooliganism or boredom, but out of our understanding that our continuous call for free education, has long been delayed. We are of the view that students cannot continuously engage in a struggle of no fee increment, as this doesn’t make universities any more accessible to the poor as they were in the past.

"Although we appreciate the strides taken by the democratic government of South Africa, as led by the African National Congress, in introducing the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) in order to make these institutions more accessible to the poor, we are also in touch with the reality of inadequate funding that we are faced with."

SASCO said that it has become quite obvious, over the years, that NSFAS is unable to cover the tuition fees of all students that are in need due to insufficient funds.

"NSFAS was realised in line with the call of the student movement for the introduction of Free Quality Education. It was a sign, at the time, that there is commitment from our democratic government to introduce Free Quality Education until the first undergraduate degree.

"A decade later, we are still holding onto that commitment, which shows that there may be derailing factors in our government’s commitment to realise Free Education," the movement said.

"We are saying not anymore! Our call for free education has long been postponed, generation after generation, which clearly shows that it is a struggle we too will pass onto the next generation if we do not champion it ourselves. We therefore commit ourselves to be the generation that will achieve Free Education, no matter the cost!

"In our struggle for free education, we take the university as our immediate point of struggle, because we appreciate the fact that institutions of higher learning are state assets under the care of the department of Higher Education. As such, if we disturb its functionality, we impact directly on the state. This is not to say that we will not take the struggle to other state nerve centres if deemed necessary, but it is our point of departure and the premise off all there is to come."

SASCO said that because the protest is not against the NMMU, as a university, hence they will not be submitting any memorandum of demands to university management, instead they will be submitting a memorandum to the Minister of Higher Education.

"We urge the university management, academic and support staff, students and concerned members of the community to join the shutdown of all campuses of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University."

However, the DA Students Organisation (DASO)-led SRC at NMMU, in its own statement, said that they will not be shutting down the university " we understand that our students are writing important semester test".

The SRC is to hold a mass student meeting on Tuesday afternoon to map a way forward.

"Furthermore, we urge all of our student societies to be at the forefront of the mass meeting. The mass meeting is tomorrow [Tuesday] at 12:00, Kraal, South campus."

It was not immediately clear at the time of publishing whether students had heeded the shutdown call.