Department To Meet With Universities To Address Student Protests

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Not only has the 2023 academic year kicked off across the country, but so have student protests and demonstrations at various institutions. The Department of Higher Education says it is currently working on ways to resolve issues faced at universities. 


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As of this week, 25 of out of the 26 public universities in the country commenced with teaching and learning, according to Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande. 

The 2023 academic year for institutions of higher learning had a bit of a rough start, as protests took place during the week of 13 February 2023, which was when most universities planned to kick off the year. 

The Minister and the DHET have taken note of the protests, which have spread at more than one institution, beginning at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and then reaching the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and even North West University (NWU).

Students were protesting in regards to the financial exclusion/fee block of students, who are unable to register for the academic year or receive their results due outstanding fees, as well as issues relating to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). 

In light of the recent student protest action carried out at campuses across South Africa, Nzimande says that in the next week his department will be meeting with university registrars to attend to all matters relating to concerns raised by students and parents.

Nzimande affirmed that they will attend to all matters to ensure that NSFAS beneficiaries are not disadvantaged or excluded. 

Speaking during his National Assembly speech, the Minister revealed that one of the main challenges for his department in this coming financial year is to develop a concrete plan and shape the Post Sector Education and Training (PSET) system, and address the need to substantially expand the college sector in line with NDP targets.

He stressed that this would go a long way in expanding academic access to the youth, whilst at the same time relieving pressure on universities.   

"In this current academic year, we have implemented new monitoring tools and strategies to lay the foundation for a successful academic year and overcome the traditional bottlenecks that normally affect the PSET system at this time," stated the Minister.

Nzimande has also stated that DHET officials have also been placed across institutions to "ascertain whether the registration processes at institutions are proceeding as planned and assist institutions, where required, with advice and guidance.”

Additionally, to further enable access to all institutions, the DHET opened the Central Applications Clearing House (CACH) in January 2023,  closing on the 31st March 2023 to assist students with accessing the courses and programmes of their choice in the system.  

The Department notes that these interventions have greatly helped to reduce "traditional bottlenecks" in different parts of the PSET system associated with admissions, registration, student financial aid and accommodation.   

Academic and training programmes at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges started as early as 23rd January 2023. 

Nzimande noted that a number of universities have extended their registration period to achieve as full enrolment as possible in the system.

 

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