Today the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, announced that the government recommends that Universities increase fees by no more than 8%. He also indicated that universities should decide on the fee increases themselves, within the guidelines given. Further, he committed that government through NSFAS will fund the fee increase for students coming from families with incomes of below R600,000. This was framed as an attempt to assist those from poor backgrounds and the so-called “Missing Middle.” The announcement does mean that it is likely that Wits will be increasing its fees for 2017 but this is yet to be confirmed by the Vice-Chancellor.
ASAWU supports a publicly funded higher education system that is accessible to all who qualify to attend. No academically deserving student should be turned away from university on the basis of not being able to afford it. ASAWU also recognizes that higher education is integral to rectifying the inequalities that continue to permeate South African society. Central to the projects of social mobility and national development is establishing a funding system that provides quality education and produces professionals, taxpayers and innovators. Members of the ASAWU Executive Committee, along with a number of those in the membership, have contributed to the Heher Commission on Funding Higher Education. We remain hopeful that a sustainable system of funding will be established and put in place and call on the government, university management, students, staff and all other stakeholders to continue to work towards developing workable and lasting solutions to the calls for public education.
Members should be aware that Wits SRC has called for student protests in a context of anything less than fee-free higher education. We will need to see what happens over today and the coming days but should disruptions take place, we encourage the membership to remain calm, engage in dialogue and discussion with students, and if necessary to report anything to campus control. ASAWU recognizes and respects the right to peaceful protest, and calls on all who wish to protest this decision, to do so peacefully and within the established laws and rules. Violence, arson and the destruction of property have no place on any university campus.
ASAWU believes that complex debates and discussions need to happen, but that these should not be at the expense of the academic progress of students currently in the system. We call on all staff and students to take seriously the academic project as we engage with one another, and the government, in order to find solutions to the problems that we share. Staff may wish to consider making contingency plans for their teaching this week, which could include the use of online media, as well as for their own mobility on and off campus.
ASAWU Executive Committee