Pretoria – Cabinet has appealed to protesting students to be guided by the Constitution and not violate the rights of others when they raise their call for free education at institutions of higher learning.
Protests on campuses in the country have been marred by violence, vandalism, destruction of property and recently, the death of a university worker has been reported.
According to Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe, the President has instructed the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster (JCPS) to deal with the mayhem that is destroying institutions of higher learning.
Minister Radebe was addressing the media in Pretoria on Thursday, on the outcomes of a Cabinet meeting, which was held on Wednesday.
“The President will be meeting with Ministers from the JCPS Cluster later today,” Minister Radebe said.
He said President Zuma will receive a full briefing on what steps are being taken to bring order to institutions of higher learning.
Government is deeply committed to the upliftment of the people of South Africa, as education remains one of government’s apex priorities, said Minister Radebe.
“We have demonstrated this through the allocation of resources, where Higher Education and Training was one of the biggest beneficiaries of this year’s national budget, receiving an additional 18% for 2016/17,” Minister Radebe said.
He said despite economic difficulties, government continues allocating resources as a demonstration of its support to broaden access to higher education, and education in general.
“Government this year provided R1.9 billion of the R2.3 billion shortfall resulting from the subsidisation on the 2016 increase.
“More than R4.5 billion in 2016/17 has been reprioritised in order to make it available to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to enable poor students to access higher education,” Minister Radebe said.
He said government is fully aware that investment in the education sector will contribute to higher economic growth, which is needed to address the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
“Government has heard and responded to the pleas of students and will subsidise the fee adjustments for poor working and middle class university students for 2017.
“Students whose parents or guardians can afford to pay for university education must and should continue to do so, because education is the responsibility of all, not only government,” Minister Radebe said.
The adjustment takes into account the issue of affordability for students and their parents, as well as the need to ensure that institutions of higher learning remain financially viable.
The interim report by the Council on Higher Education proposed an inflation (CPI) linked fee adjustment across the board for 2017.
Minister Radebe said government accepted the recommendation of a proposed 8% fee adjustment at universities and TVET colleges, while at the same time, providing gap funding to cover the adjustment for poor and missing middle students.
“While the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training Funding completes its work, our university system has to continue functioning, producing skills for the economy, and empowering young South Africans and students from countries around the world, in particular the Southern African Development Community,” Minister Radebe said.