Minister Blade Nzimande Has Been Asked To Resign
The South African Federation of Trade Unions has requested for Minister Blade Nzimande to resign because "he is now an agent of austerity beating students into accepting government’s programme of stealing their future."
According to SAFTU, the minister has carelessly compared the efforts of students exercising their democratic right to demand the right to basic education, a “soap” opera.
At the height of the #FeesMustFall movement in 2016, SAFTU revealed that Nzimande commented that “students must fall”, which took place as students fell in a hail of police rubber bullets, were arrested, faced imprisonment and suspensions.
SAFTU believes that it is "disconcerting" for Nzimande to be referring to the fight for free education and against financial exclusions as a “Bold and Beautiful soapie”.
In a statement released by the union, it stated that "for a minister who is the General Secretary of the Communist Party to make remarks that undermine the efforts of students to free quality education and underplay the need for such education is shameful. As a communist, he should be the one championing the realisation of free education, not mocking students for demanding what he should be doing."
The union believes that he is "negligent" to the fact that student protests have been implemented into the yearly national calendar because academically deserving students are still being excluded since they cannot afford the high tertiary fees.
"He passes it off as something to celebrate that they fund the poor and working-class except for the “missing middle”. Besides the fact that it is not true that all poor students who apply to NSFAS get it because NSFAS cannot fund beyond a certain capacity, Blade must be reminded that the missing middle is the children of the working class – teachers, nurses, police, clerical workers in government, etc," read the statement.
SAFTU believes that he is blind to the difficulties students face on a daily basis. Many of them face financial exclusions and deregistrations as they cannot afford the costs.
The union, therefore, calls on Minister Blade Nzimande to resign as Minister of Higher Education, Science and Training, because "he is now an agent of austerity beating students into accepting government’s programme of stealing their future."
The Minister then replied to this request with his own statement, which read: "SAFTU’s statement seeks to rubbish the significant advances made by the ANC-led Government since 1994 in progressively expand access to, and success in, both universities and colleges across the breadth of South Africa. This has been an incredible feat. The sector before and after 1994 is simply incomparable, despite SAFTU’s efforts to deny the facts on the ground. Central to these strides by Government have been major advances is promoting a strong working class and poor bias in the expansion and outcomes set for the PSET system. We are equally clear that this is a historical process that will take years to complete, but our commitment to its full realisation is unquestionable."
Nzimande announced that if SAFTU has real concerns and issues regarding developments in the post-school education and training sector, he is more than willing to meet and engage with them.
The Minister together with the Vice Chancellors announced the immediate implementation of a three-tier strategic intervention which includes:
- Using several debt relief mechanisms on a case by case basis to enable academically-deserving students to register and complete their studies without undermining the underlying financial stability of each institution. In this regard, specific attention is being given to the plight of senior students who are NSFAS bursary recipients before the 2018 NSFAS policy framework and ‘missing middle’ income students where severe financial difficulties may be experienced.
- Ongoing constructive engagements with student leadership structures at an institutional level.
- The commitment to work on a longer-term solution to support a comprehensive and sustainable student financial aid system.
“This work will be done collaboratively with the rest of the PSET system to ensure that we make the best use of the intellectual capacity in the higher education system,” said the Minister.
Minister Nzimande announced that he welcomes constructive engagement with all critical stakeholders within the sector including SAFTU if they so wish.
NSFAS has opened its application season for learners and out-of-school youth who will be studying at public universities and TVET colleges in 2022. However, some applicants have had trouble finding their courses listed on the NSFAS website.
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