Pretoria – Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has welcomed the commitment shown by stakeholders to resolve issues in the post-school education and training sector.
The Minister on Thursday issued a statement following the Higher Education Imbizo, which took place on 3 October in Kempton Park.
“At the imbizo, stakeholders undertook to rightfully get close to the issues unfolding at institutions of higher learning. Such a commitment was translated into a declaration that was agreed to by all.
“The declaration called for, among other things, students and academics to resume academic programmes in order to save the rest of the academic year. It also called for stakeholders to assist in mediation efforts where necessary.
“It is within the above context that I welcome some of the initiatives by various stakeholders, who are working with all the stakeholders and institutions to find amicable ways to resolve institution-specific issues, as is currently underway at the University of the Witwatersrand.
“We encourage other institutions to mobilise innovative initiatives at their disposal to promote lasting institutional peace. In particular, we encourage institutions to use their institutional forums to encourage a culture of dialogue, rather than confrontation,” said the Minister.
Students, council members, vice-chancellors, religious and traditional leaders, leaders of convocations and alumni on Monday met in Gauteng to iron out issues around student protests. The meeting adopted a declaration committing parties to find solutions to the challenges gripping most universities.
“These efforts represent the spirit and the latter of the declaration and therefore are encouraging and commendable,” said Minister Nzimande.
The Department of Higher Education and Training reiterated its stance that education should be a collective responsibility.
“It therefore requires all members of society, particularly leaders, to make sure that education is accessible to all, particularly the poor. It takes the entire community to educate a child.
“We have consistently been appealing to parents, leaders in society and the university community that we must, as a collective, do everything in our power to ensure that normality returns to our universities and that the 2016 academic programme is completed. We equally call on leaders in other parts of the country to get involved to secure the future of our children,” Minister Nzimande said.
The department will continue to be in constant contact with universities and student leadership, including leaders in society, to ensure that classes resume and the culture of learning returns to universities.
Minister Nzimande said negotiations for permanent solutions to the demands of students can be found in tandem with the continuation of the academic programme.
“The department will continue to monitor the situation across campuses and intervene where required. The department also encourages anyone with innovative solutions to present them to the Fees Commission, which is currently underway,” said Minister Nzimande.
Police monitor varsities
Meanwhile, the South African Police Service says it continues to monitor activities and protests on campuses.
“The majority of universities are currently closed and in general, the situation was calm across most campuses, including those that are open, during the course of the day. We commend the positive response and engagement by all role players, including the majority, for heeding the calls for restraint, peace and stability from all quarters across the nation.
“We continue to experience sporadic incidents of public disorder and violence, which deserve to be condemned and discouraged by all of us. Over the past two days a few incidents, which are of concern to the SAPS, have been recorded.
“Yesterday at the University of the Witwatersrand, there were clashes between groups with opposing views on the closure and opening of the university. The South African Police Service managed to keep the groups away from each other, thereby avoiding the eruption of violence and public disorder,” said acting National Police Commissioner, Kgomotso Phahlane.
He said SAPS will continue to monitor the situation at universities. Investigations into arson cases are at an advanced stage and arrests are imminent.
“SAPS members will arrest those who break the law and they will be accordingly prosecuted. Young people are discouraged from making themselves guilty of any offence, which will possibly have far-reaching implications on their future and employment opportunities, since a criminal record will undoubtedly be a hindrance to them in their future endeavours,” said Phahlane.