Government and business leaders have made a unanimous call to all stakeholders to help save the 2016 academic year while the engagements on fees continue.

The call was made during a media briefing, following a meeting held by Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande and business leaders.

The meeting was part of ongoing exchanges and consultations that government has with business.

The meeting discussed the critical role of business to find new solutions and new models to achieve sustainable university education and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) college system for South Africa.

Addressing the media, Minister Nzimande said the majority of universities are back in operation and have put plans in place to ensure that the academic year is not lost.

However, he said government was concerned about the state of the universities and the rest of the 26 universities. He urged students not to allow some people who have their own interests, using the fee issues to disrupt the academic year.

“Some interests are no longer about the fees but discrediting government. Don’t allow your legitimate struggle to be hijacked and be turned into a struggle of violence.

“We are on the same side with students with the issue of provision of free higher education for poor students. We want stability in our institutions to save the 2016 academic year,” said Minister Nzimande.

He also announced that a report on modalities of funding ‘missing middle’, which was compiled by the Ministerial Task Team, has been completed and presented by Chairperson of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme Board, Sizwe Nxasana.

Nxasana said the task team also looked at other challenges existing, including high dropout rate incidents especially students that come from poor and working class background.

“It’s possible to offer fully subsidised education to the very poor. It is possible to subsidise accommodation and loans on a sliding scale, as households’ income increases for working class students,” Nxasana told SAnews.

Representatives from the business sector pledged their support to find the funding models for higher education.

They also condemned the violence and damage of university infrastructure.

Chairman of the National Business Initiative, Cas Coovadia, said people who damaged the university infrastructure and loot businesses around the universities, are not students but criminals.

“These are criminal acts and law must act. If you protest legitimately it is fine but if you loot, you are a criminal and must be treated as such,” warned Coovadia.

Students have been protesting over the 2017 fee increment which was announced by Minister Nzimande recently. He announced that universities would decide on their increases individually but that the fees should not increase by more than 8%. – SAnews.gov.za





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