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Things remain quiet at NMMU as Wits, UCT and others embark on #feesmustfall protests

SEPTEMBER 19, 2016
Things remain quiet at NMMU as Wits, UCT and others embark on #feesmustfall protests

While students at some of the country's leading universities, including Wits and UCT, immediately embarked on #feestmustfall protests after Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, on Monday announced that there would be no fees increase for NSFAS students, but increases of no more than 8% for the rest, things remained quiet at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

In August, the NMMU was forced to call off academic business after students from the South African Students Congress (SASCO) blocked entrances to the university in response to a call by the SASCO Eastern Cape leadership that all campuses in the province be shutdown in protest over a possible fee increase for the 2017 academic year.

Efforts by the DA Students Organisation (DASO) led NMMU Student Representative Council (SRC) to call off the shutdown, which the SRC said would affect students, who were due to write tests, failed dismally.

The university said then that it supports the calls for free education for poor and academically deserving students.

"The Minister of Higher Education and Training is expected to make a pronouncement in the next week in respect of tuition fee increases for 2017. The University will work with students and staff to co-create an implementation plan for next year once there is further clarity in this regard," said DR Sibongile Muthwa, who is the  Acting Vice Chancellor, while NMMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz jets off to Peru on a fundraising camapign, in a statement.

Speaking at the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training (the Fees Commission) in East London, Dr Muthwa outlined the institution’s recommendations in the national attempt towards a viable university funding solution.

She highlighted a need for a national university funding review, adequate financial support for the so-called “missing middle” and improved management of student loans to help the national financial aid scheme meet the funding needs of poorer, academically deserving students.

Meanwhile, government on Sunday said it had noted with concern media reports that protesting students at the University of Stellenbosch have been injured after clashing with security on campus.

Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Acting Director-General Donald Liphoko on Friday echoed the Department of Higher Education and Training’s assurance that the matter of student fees is receiving full attention.

“Government is calling on all students and campus securities to reduce tensions on campus and allow an environment for dialogue around emerging solutions to the fees challenge,” said Liphoko.

Government has called on all South Africans, students at tertiary education institutions and parents to address their grievances within the confines of the law in the spirit of moving South Africa forward.

The Fees Commission was established in January 2016 to inquire into, report on and make recommendations on the feasibility of a fee free higher education and training in South Africa.

It is expected to submit a preliminary report to the President in November 2016 and a full report in June 2017.