Social cohesion:  Students mingle on the campus at the University of Cape Town. The government has appointed a committee to accelerate transformation at South African universities.File picture
Social cohesion: Students mingle on the campus at the University of Cape Town. The government has appointed a committee to accelerate transformation at South African universities.File picture

A nationwide student protest is bubbling as students at tertiary institutions grow restless about delays in the release of the fees commission report.

The #FeesMustFall protests of 2015 and 2016, when students demanded free education, brought higher education to a standstill and examinations were postponed as a result.

University of Cape Town (UCT) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology students marched to Parliament on Wednesday to demand the release of this report.

Among a long list of issues, the protesters called for no fee increase, the immediate release of the commission report and an inquiry into how much had been spent on militarising campuses over the past two years.

Earlier this week, UCT vice-chancellor Max Price called for the release of the report to enable the university to put budgetary plans in place for the 2018 academic year.

While the students were demonstrating outside Parliament, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba seemed not to have hit the right note, shifting the announcement to President Jacob Zuma, who has been sitting on the report for the past two months.

"The student movement has correctly put the issue of higher education at the centre of our transformation agenda," Gigaba said in his medium-term budget policy statement.

"We cannot hope to grow and develop without the skills and intellectual capabilities that our universities and technical training colleges produce. But clearly more needs to be done.

"The Heher commission of inquiry into higher education and training has delivered its final report to the president and we await the president’s determination and announcement in this regard," he said.

Gigaba acknowledged that no meritorious student should be sidelined. "Although the fiscal constraints we face are real and binding, we must make every effort to ensure that no academically deserving student is excluded due to financial constraints. Further announcements will be made in this regard in the 2018 budget."

Unlike in predecessor Pravin Gordhan’s medium-term budget policy statement, which allocated an additional R17bn to tertiary education, he did not outline how much would be allocated to students and if universities would be subsidised.

Statistics SA data revealed on Tuesday that although government grants were cushioning universities, they were not enough to finance all students.

Over R67m in income was generated by public higher education institutions in the financial year to December 2016.

Please sign in or register to comment.