18 of South Africa's 26 Public Universities are said to be participating in the national shutdown.
Protests have not stopped despite calm being seen at some Universities. Government is now feeling the pressure as various engagements are held to figure out a solution to the issues expressed.
Students are protesting for a number of reasons and have said that a national shutdown will be in place until their demands are met. These include:
- Students who have historic debt should be allowed to register
- All historic debt must be wiped
- Free education and registration
- Provision of postgraduate funding
- NSFAS laptops must be delivered
- Zero percent fee increase for 2021
- Support for the missing middle
These protests and the demands behind them come every year.
Public Protector, Advocate Kholeka Gcaleka, said:
Our contention was that we need to ensure that in the next academic year, we do not continue to have these protests.
"The Minister indicated that Cabinet has approved a further R6.3 billion to try and address the current challenges and ensure that students are registered and go back into the lecture halls," Gcaleka continued.
Andre Gaum from the South African Human Right Commission said:
The comprehensive host of issues that were addresses, not only with NSFAS but also with the Minister and Deputy Minister and we hope to take this forward by monitoring these undertakings that have been provided.
Institutions have met with the Minister on the current situation in higher education.
The South African Union of Students (SAUS) held a meeting with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Higher Education on Wednesday. However, the Minister and Deputy Minister had to excuse themselves due to other ministerial commitments which SAUS says was them running away from that meeting without answering questions.
Other engagements were also held between the Minister and students but no solution has been found yet.
Government has emphasised that both them and institutions cannot afford to wipe historic debt as institutions need the money for financial sustainability and government does not have the funds available to provide to Universities to cover historic debt.
Should student demands not be met, there are plans for protests across the country to continue next week marking week 3 in higher education protest action.