Gov & Unis Can't Afford To Wipe Student Debts - Department

Universities have said that they can't afford to scrap historic debt and government has said that they can't provide funding to do so. This is however the centre of nationwide protests around the country as students demand that historic debts be written off.

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The Department of Higher Education currently has a massive task on their hands as students across South Africa are protesting to demand free education along with other higher education demands. The Department has now spoken more on the national shutdown students have called since Monday.

Ishmael Mnisi, Spokesperson for the Department said:

We have been in contact with the students. We have been communicating what the sector is doing, including issues relating to registration.

Issues of financial clearance and historical debt are at the centre of the current nationwide protests. Students want government to wipe all historical debts.

Mnisi responded to this, "We are not in a financial position to be able to support the institutions to clear all the student debt in this regard."

The department is said to be aware of the many families struggling to keep up with fee payments, with this escalating due to the pandemic.

There are instances currently and agreements that we've reached with institutions. 

They have also resolved the issue of NSFAS not having funds available for first time entering students as they have now reallocated funds within the department. Students are now in the process of receiving their funding decisions and registrations have been extended for two weeks.

As for the missing middle, who are mostly affected by historical debt, Mnisi says they have made arrangements with Universities South Africa (USAf) that institutions of higher education must negotiate with students to have a payment agreement.

We have instructed institutions, particularly for those in their final year, that they must release the academic records so that those students are able to go into the sector, get employment and be in a position to be financially sustainable and pay back that which they owe.

"If we don't release the results, that might also be self-sabotaging to the sector itself."

Many Vice-Chancellors have said that Universities cannot afford to wipe historical debt and seek funding from government. On the other side of the fence, government has said that they can't provide that funding. 

USAf has said that this shows that this is a national crisis which requires a national solution.

The department has responded to a list of demands from the South African Union of students. To read more on that, click here. Here, the Higher Education Minister, Blade Nzimande, gave updates on NSFAS laptops, NSFAS allowances and funding, Unisa and many other topics which are currently being discussed in Higher Education. 

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